Underground: Chapter 4 -- The Fugitive

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There's one gun, probably more and the others are pointing at our backdoor

-- from `Knife's Edge', on Bird Noises by Midnight Oil

When Par failed to show up for his hearing on 10 July 1989 in the Monterey County Juvenile Court in Salinas, he officially became a fugitive. He had, in fact, already been on the run for some weeks. But no-one knew. Not even his lawyer.

Richard Rosen had an idea something was wrong when Par didn't show up for a meeting some ten days before the hearing, but he kept hoping his client would come good. Rosen had negotiated a deal for Par: reparations plus fifteen days or less in juvenile prison in exchange for Par's full cooperation with the Secret Service.

Par had appeared deeply troubled over the matter for weeks. He didn't seem to mind telling the Feds how he had broken into various computers, but that's not what they were really looking for. They wanted him to rat. And to rat on everyone. They knew Par was a kingpin and, as such, he knew all the important players in the underground. The perfect stooge. But Par couldn't bring himself to narc. Even if he did spill his guts, there was still the question of what the authorities would do to him in prison. The question of elimination loomed large in his mind.

So, one morning, Par simply disappeared. He had planned it carefully, packed his bags discreetly and made arrangements with a trusted friend outside the circle which included his room-mates. The friend drove around to pick Par up when the room-mates were out. They never had an inkling that the now eighteen-year-old Par was about to vanish for a very long time.

First, Par headed to San Diego. Then LA. Then he made his way to New Jersey. After that, he disappeared from the radar screen completely.

Life on the run was hard. For the first few months, Par carried around two prized possessions; an inexpensive laptop computer and photos of Theorem taken during her visit. They were his lifeline to a different world and he clutched them in his bag as he moved from one city to another, often staying with his friends from the computer underground. The loose-knit network of hackers worked a bit like the nineteenth-century American `underground railroad' used by escaped slaves to flee from the South to the safety of the northern states. Except that, for Par, there was never a safe haven.

Par crisscrossed the continent, always on the move. A week in one place. A few nights in another. Sometimes there were breaks in the electronic underground railroad, spaces between the place where one line ended and another began. Those breaks were the hardest. They meant sleeping out in the open, sometimes in the cold, going without food and being without anyone to talk to.

He continued hacking, with new-found frenzy, because he was invincible. What were the law enforcement agencies going to do? Come and arrest him? He was already a fugitive and he figured things couldn't get much worse. He felt as though he would be on the run forever, and as if he had already been on the run for a lifetime, though it was only a few months.

When he was staying with people from the computer underground, Par was careful. But when he was alone in a dingy motel room, or with people completely outside that world, he hacked without fear. Blatant, in-your-face feats. Things he knew the Secret Service would see. Even his illicit voice mailbox had words for his pursuers:

Yeah, this is Par. And to all those faggots from the Secret Service who keep calling and hanging up, well, lots of luck. 'Cause, I mean, you're so fucking stupid, it's not even funny.

I mean, if you had to send my shit to Apple Computers [for analysis], you must be so stupid, it's pitiful. You also thought I had blue-boxing equipment [for phreaking]. I'm just laughing trying to think what you thought was a blue box. You are so lame.

Oh well. And anyone else who needs to leave me a message, go ahead. And everyone take it easy and leave me some shit. Alright. Later.

Despite the bravado, paranoia took hold of Par as it never had before. If he saw a cop across the street, his breath would quicken and he would turn and walk in the opposite direction. If the cop was heading toward him, Par crossed the street and turned down the nearest alley. Police of any type made him very nervous.

By the autumn of 1989, Par had made his way to a small town in North Carolina. He found a place to stop and rest with a friend who used the handle The Nibbler and whose family owned a motel. A couple of weeks in one place, in one bed, was paradise. It was also free, which meant he didn't have to borrow money from Theorem, who helped him out while he was on the run.

Par slept in whatever room happened to be available that night, but he spent most of his time in one of the motel chalets Nibbler used in the off-season as a computer room. They spent days hacking from Nibbler's computer. The fugitive had been forced to sell off his inexpensive laptop before arriving in North Carolina.

After a few weeks at the motel, however, he couldn't shake the feeling that he was being watched. There were too many strangers coming and going. He wondered if the hotel guests waiting in their cars were spying on him, and he soon began jumping at shadows. Perhaps, he thought, the Secret Service had found him after all.

Par thought about how he could investigate the matter in more depth.

One of The Atlanta Three hackers, The Prophet, called Nibbler occasionally to exchange hacking information, particularly security bugs in Unix systems. During one of their talks, Prophet told Par about a new security flaw he'd been experimenting with on a network that belonged to the phone company.

The Atlanta Three, a Georgia-based wing of The Legion of Doom, spent a good deal of time weaving their way through BellSouth, the phone company covering the south-eastern US. They knew about phone switching stations the way Par knew about Tymnet. The Secret Service had raided the hackers in July 1989 but had not arrested them yet, so in September The Prophet continued to maintain an interest in his favourite target.

Par thought the flaw in BellSouth's network sounded very cool and began playing around in the company's systems. Dial up the company's computer network, poke around, look at things. The usual stuff.

It occurred to Par that he could check out the phone company's records of the motel to see if there was anything unusual going on. He typed in the motel's main phone number and the system fed back the motel's address, name and some detailed technical information, such as the exact cable and pair attached to the phone number. Then he looked up the phone line of the computer chalet. Things looked odd on that line.

The line which he and Nibbler used for most of their hacking showed a special status: `maintenance unit on line'.

What maintenance unit? Nibbler hadn't mentioned any problems with any of the motel's lines, but Par checked with him. No problems with the telephones.

Par felt nervous. In addition to messing around with the phone company's networks, he had been hacking into a Russian computer network from the computer chalet. The Soviet network was a shiny new toy. It had only been connected to the rest of the world's global packet-switched network for about a month, which made it particularly attractive virgin territory.

Nibbler called in a friend to check the motel's phones. The friend, a former telephone company technician turned freelancer, came over to look at the equipment. He told Nibbler and Par that something weird was happening in the motel's phone system. The line voltages were way off.

Par realised instantly what was going on. The system was being monitored. Every line coming in and going out was probably being tapped, which meant only one thing. Someone--the phone company, the local police, the FBI or the Secret Service--was onto him.

Nibbler and Par quickly packed up all Nibbler's computer gear, along with Par's hacking notes, and moved to another motel across town. They had to shut down all their hacking activities and cover their tracks.

Par had left programs running which sniffed people's passwords and login names on a continual basis as they logged in, then dumped all the information into a file on the hacked machine. He checked that file every day or so. If he didn't shut the programs down, the log file would grow until it was so big the system administrator would become curious and have a look. When he discovered that his system had been hacked he would close the security holes. Par would have problems getting back into that system.

After they finished tidying up the hacked systems, they gathered up all Par's notes and Nibbler's computer equipment once again and stashed them in a rented storage space. Then they drove back to the motel.

Par couldn't afford to move on just yet. Besides, maybe only the telephone company had taken an interest in the motel's phone system. Par had done a lot of poking and prodding of the telecommunications companies' computer systems from the motel phone, but he had done it anonymously. Perhaps BellSouth felt a little curious and just wanted to sniff about for more information. If that was the case, the law enforcement agencies probably didn't know that Par, the fugitive, was hiding in the motel.

The atmosphere was becoming oppressive in the motel. Par became even more watchful of the people coming and going. He glanced out the front window a little more often, and he listened a little more carefully to the footsteps coming and going. How many of the guests were really just tourists? Par went through the guest list and found a man registered as being from New Jersey. He was from one of the AT&T corporations left after the break-up of Bell Systems. Why on earth would an AT&T guy be staying in a tiny hick town in North Carolina? Maybe a few Secret Service agents had snuck into the motel and were watching the chalet.

Par needed to bring the paranoia under control. He needed some fresh air, so he went out for a walk. The weather was bad and the wind blew hard, whipping up small tornadoes of autumn leaves. Soon it began raining and Par sought cover in the pay phone across the street.

Despite having been on the run for a few months, Par still called Theorem almost every day, mostly by phreaking calls through bulk telecommunications companies. He dialled her number and they talked for a bit. He told her about how the voltage was way off on the motel's PABX and how the phone might be tapped. She asked how he was holding up. Then they spoke softly about when they might see each other again.

Outside the phone box, the storm worsened. The rain hammered the roof from one side and then another as the wind jammed it in at strange angles. The darkened street was deserted. Tree branches creaked under the strain of the wind. Rivulets rushed down the leeward side of the booth and formed a wall of water outside the glass. Then a trash bin toppled over and its contents flew onto the road.

Trying to ignore to the havoc around him, Par curled the phone handset into a small protected space, cupped between his hand, his chest and a corner of the phone booth. He reminded Theorem of their time together in California, of two and a half weeks, and they laughed gently over intimate secrets.

A tree branch groaned and then broke under the force of the wind. When it crashed on the pavement near the phone booth, Theorem asked Par what the noise was.

`There's a hurricane coming,' he told her. `Hurricane Hugo. It was supposed to hit tonight. I guess it's arrived.'

Theorem sounded horrified and insisted Par go back to the safety of the motel immediately.

When Par opened the booth door, he was deluged by water. He dashed across the road, fighting the wind of the hurricane, staggered into his motel room and jumped into bed to warm up. He fell asleep listening to the storm, and he dreamed of Theorem.

Hurricane Hugo lasted more than three days, but they felt like the safest three days Par had spent in weeks. It was a good bet that the Secret Service wouldn't be conducting any raids during a hurricane. South Carolina took the brunt of Hugo but North Carolina also suffered massive damage. It was one of the worst hurricanes to hit the area in decades. Winds near its centre reached more than 240 kilometres per hour, causing 60 deaths and $7 billion in damages as it made its way up the coast from the West Indies to the Carolinas.

When Par stepped outside his motel room one afternoon a few days after the storm, the air was fresh and clean. He walked to the railing outside his second-storey perch and found himself looking down on a hive of activity in the car park. There were cars. There was a van. There was a collection of spectators.

And there was the Secret Service.

At least eight agents wearing blue jackets with the Secret Service emblem on the back.

Par froze. He stopped breathing. Everything began to move in slow motion. A few of the agents formed a circle around one of the guys from the motel, a maintenance worker named John, who looked vaguely like Par. They seemed to be hauling John over the coals, searching his wallet for identification and quizzing him. Then they escorted him to the van, presumably to run his prints.

Par's mind began moving again. He tried to think clearly. What was the best way out? He had to get back into his room. It would give him some cover while he figured out what to do next. The photos of Theorem flashed through his mind. No way was he going to let the Secret Service get hold of those. He needed to stash them and fast.

He could see the Secret Service agents searching the computer chalet. Thank God he and Nibbler had moved all the equipment. At least there was nothing incriminating in there and they wouldn't be able to seize all their gear.

Par breathed deeply, deliberately, and forced himself to back away from the railing toward the door to his room. He resisted the urge to dash into his room, to recoil from the scene being played out below him. Abrupt movements would draw the agents' attention.

Just as Par began to move, one of the agents turned around. He scanned the two-storey motel complex and his gaze quickly came to rest on Par. He looked Par dead in the eye.

This is it, Par thought. I'm screwed. No way out of here now. Months on the run only to get done in a hick town in North Carolina. These guys are gonna haul my ass away for good. I'll never see the light of day again. Elimination is the only option.

While these thoughts raced through Par's mind, he stood rigid, his feet glued to the cement floor, his face locked into the probing gaze of the Secret Service agent. He felt like they were the only two people who existed in the universe.

Then, inexplicably, the agent looked away. He swivelled around to finish his conversation with another agent. It was as if he had never even seen the fugitive.

Par stood, suspended and unbelieving. Somehow it seemed impossible. He began to edge the rest of the way to his motel room. Slowly, casually, he slid inside and shut the door behind him.

His mind raced back to the photos of Theorem and he searched the room for a safe hiding place. There wasn't one. The best option was something above eye-level. He pulled a chair across the room, climbed on it and pressed on the ceiling. The rectangular panel of plasterboard lifted easily and Par slipped the photos in the space, then replaced the panel. If the agents tore the room apart, they would likely find the pictures. But the photos would probably escape a quick search, which was the best he could hope for at this stage.

Next, he turned his mind to escaping. The locals were pretty cool about everything, and Par thought he could count on the staff not to mention his presence to the Secret Service. That bought him some time, but he couldn't get out of the room without being seen. Besides, if he was spotted walking off the property, he would certainly be stopped and questioned.

Even if he did manage to get out of the motel grounds, it wouldn't help much. The town wasn't big enough to shield him from a thorough search and there was no-one there he trusted enough to hide him. It might look a little suspicious, this young man running away from the motel on foot in a part of the world where everyone travelled by car. Hitchhiking was out of the question. With his luck, he'd probably get picked up by one of the agents leaving the raid. No, he wanted a more viable plan. What he really needed was to get out of the area altogether, to flee the state.

Par knew that John travelled to Asheville to attend classes and that he left very early. If the authorities had been watching the motel for a while, they would know that his 5 a.m. departure was normal. And there was one other thing about the early departure which seemed promising. It was still dark at that hour.

If Par could get as far as Asheville, he might be able to get a lift to Charlotte, and from there he could fly somewhere far away.

Par considered the options again and again. Hiding out in the motel room seemed the most sensible thing to do. He had been moving rooms around the motel pretty regularly, so he might have appeared to be just another traveller to anyone watching the motel. With any luck the Secret Service would be concentrating their search on the chalet, ripping the place apart in a vain hunt for the computer equipment. As these thoughts went through his head, the phone rang, making Par jump. He stared at it, wondering whether to answer.

He picked it up.

`It's Nibbler,' a voice whispered.

`Yeah,' Par whispered back.

`Par, the Secret Service is here, searching the motel.'

`I know. I saw them.'

`They've already searched the room next to yours.' Par nearly died. The agents had been less than two metres from where he was standing and he hadn't even known it. That room was where John stayed. It was connected to his by an inner door, but both sides were locked.

`Move into John's room and lay low. Gotta go.' Nibbler hung up abruptly.

Par put his ear to the wall and listened. Nothing. He unlocked the connecting inner door, turned the knob and pressed lightly. It gave. Someone had unlocked the other side after the search. Par squinted through the crack in the door. The room was silent and still. He opened it--no-one home. Scooping up his things, he quickly moved into John's room.

Then he waited. Pacing and fidgeting, he strained his ears to catch the sounds outside. Every bang and creak of a door opening and closing set him on edge. Late that night, after the law enforcement officials had left, Nibbler called him on the house phone and told him what had happened.

Nibbler had been inside the computer chalet when the Secret Service showed up with a search warrant. The agents took names, numbers, every detail they could, but they had trouble finding any evidence of hacking. Finally, one of them emerged from the chalet triumphantly waving a single computer disk in the air. The law enforcement entourage hanging around in front of the chalet let out a little cheer, but Nibbler could hardly keep a straight face. His younger brother had been learning the basics of computer graphics with a program called Logo. The United States Secret Service would soon be uncovering the secret drawings of a primary school student.

Par laughed. It helped relieve the stress. Then he told Nibbler his escape plan, and Nibbler agreed to arrange matters. His parents didn't know the whole story, but they liked Par and wanted to help him. Then Nibbler wished his friend well.

Par didn't even try to rest before his big escape. He was as highly strung as a racehorse at the gate. What if the Secret Service was still watching the place? There was no garage attached to the main motel building which he could access from the inside. He would be exposed, even though it would only be for a minute or so. The night would provide reasonable cover, but the escape plan wasn't fool-proof. If agents were keeping the motel under observation from a distance they might miss him taking off from his room. On the other hand, there could be undercover agents posing as guests watching the entire complex from inside their room.

Paranoid thoughts stewed in Par's mind throughout the night. Just before 5 a.m., he heard John's car pull up outside. Par flicked off the light in his room, opened his door a crack and scanned the motel grounds. All quiet, bar the single car, which puffed and grunted in the still, cold air. The windows in most of the buildings were dark. It was now or never.

Par opened the door all the way and slipped down the hallway. As he crept downstairs, the pre-dawn chill sent a shiver down his spine. Glancing quickly from side to side, he hurried toward the waiting car, pulled the back door open and dove onto the seat. Keeping his head down, he twisted around, rolled onto the floor and closed the door with little more than a soft click.

As the car began to move. Par reached for a blanket which had been tossed on the floor and pulled it over himself. After a while, when John told him they were safely out of the town, Par slipped the blanket off his face and he looked up at the early morning sky. He tried to get comfortable on the floor. It was going to be a long ride.

At Asheville, John dropped Par off at an agreed location. Par thanked him and hopped into a waiting car. Someone else from his extensive network of friends and acquaintances took him to Charlotte.

This time Par rode in the front passenger seat. For the first time, he saw the true extent of the damage wreaked by Hurricane Hugo. The small town where he had been staying had been slashed by rain and high winds, but on the way to the Charlotte airport, where he would pick up a flight to New York, Par watched the devastation with amazement. He stared out the car window, unable to take his eyes off the storm's trail of havoc.

The hurricane had swept up anything loose or fragile and turned it into a missile on a suicide mission. Whatever mangled, broken fragments remained after the turbulent winds had passed would have been almost unrecognisable to those who had seen them before.

Theorem worried about Par as he staggered from corner to corner of the continent. In fact, she had often asked him to consider giving himself up. Moving from town to town was taking its toll on Par, and it wasn't that much easier on Theorem. She hadn't thought going on the lam was such a great idea in the first place, and she offered to pay for his lawyer so he could stop running. Par declined. How could he hand himself in when he believed elimination was a real possibility? Theorem sent him money, since he had no way of earning a living and he needed to eat. The worst parts, though, were the dark thoughts that kept crossing her mind. Anything could happen to Par between phone calls. Was he alive? In prison? Had he been raided, even accidentally shot during a raid?

The Secret Service and the private security people seemed to want him so badly. It was worrying, but hardly surprising. Par had embarrassed them. He had broken into their machines and passed their private information around in the underground. They had raided his home when he wasn't even home. Then he had escaped a second raid, in North Carolina, slipping between their fingers. He was constantly in their face, continuing to hack blatantly and to show them contempt in things such as his voicemail message. He figured they were probably exasperated from chasing all sorts of false leads as well, since he was perpetually spreading fake rumours about his whereabouts. Most of all, he thought they knew what he had seen inside the TRW system. He was a risk.

Par became more and more paranoid, always watching over his shoulder as he moved from city to city. He was always tired. He could never sleep properly, worrying about the knock on the door. Some mornings, after a fitful few hours of rest, he woke with a start, unable to remember where he was. Which house or motel, which friends, which city.

He still hacked all the time, borrowing machines where he could. He posted messages frequently on The Phoenix Project, an exclusive BBS run by The Mentor and Erik Bloodaxe and frequented by LOD members and the Australian hackers. Some well-known computer security people were also invited onto certain, limited areas of the Texas-based board, which immediately elevated the status of The Phoenix Project in the computer underground. Hackers were as curious about the security people as the security people were about their prey. The Phoenix Project was special because it provided neutral ground, where both sides could meet to exchange ideas.

Via the messages, Par continued to improve his hacking skills while also talking with his friends, people like Erik Bloodaxe, from Texas, and Phoenix, from The Realm in Melbourne. Electron also frequented The Phoenix Project. These hackers knew Par was on the run, and sometimes they joked with him about it. The humour made the stark reality of Par's situation bearable. All the hackers on The Phoenix Project had considered the prospect of being caught. But the presence of Par, and his tortured existence on the run, hammered the implications home with some regularity.

As Par's messages became depressed and paranoid, other hackers tried to do what they could to help him. Elite US and foreign hackers who had access to the private sections of The Phoenix Project saw his messages and they felt for him. Yet Par continued to slide deeper and deeper into his own strange world.

Subject: DAMN !!!
From: The Parmaster
Date: Sat Jan 13 08:40:17 1990

Shit, i got drunk last night and went onto that Philippine system...
Stupid Admin comes on and asks who i am ...

Next thing i know, i'm booted off and both accounts on the system are gone.
Not only this .. but the
whole fucking Philippine Net isn't accepting collect calls anymore. (The thing
went down completely after i was booted off!)
Apparently someone there
had enough of me.
By the way, kids, never
drink and hack!

- Par

Subject: gawd
From: The Parmaster
Date: Sat Jan 13 09:07:06 1990

Those SS boys and NSA boys think i'm a COMRADE .. hehehe i'm just glad
i'm still fucking free.


<Glastnost and all that happy horseshit>

- Par

Subject: The Bottom line.
From: The Parmaster
Date: Sun Jan 21 10:05:38 1990

The bottom line is a crackdown.  The phrack boys were just the start,
i'm sure of it.

This is the time to watch yourself.  No matter what you are into,
whether it's just codes, cards, etc.

Apparently the government has seen the last straw. Unfortunately, with
all of this in the news now, they will be able to get more government
money to combat hackers.

And that's BAD fucking news for us. I think they are going after all
the `teachers'--the people who educate others into this sort of thing.

I wonder if they think that maybe these remote cases are linked in any
way.  The only way they canprobably see is that we are hackers.  And
so that is where their energies will be put.  To stop ALL hackers--and
stop them BEFORE they can become a threat.  After they wipe out the
educators, that is.  Just a theory.

- Par

Subject: Connection
From: The Parmaster
Date: Sun Jan 21 10:16:11 1990

Well, the only connection is disconnection, as Gandalf [a British
hacker] would say.

That's what i'm putting
on my epitaph.
Oh well, maybe i'll take
a few of the buggers with me when they come for me.

- Par

Subject: Oh well.
From: The Parmaster
Date: Tue Jan 23 19:30:05 1990

`And now, the end is near. I've traveled each and every byway ...'  in
the words of the King. Oh well. Who cares? He was a fat shit before he
died anyway.

To everyone who's been a good friend of mine and help me cover up the
fact that i don't know a fucking thing--i thank u.  And to everyone
else, take it easy and hang tough.

i was temporarily insane at the time

See you smart guys at the funny farm.

- Par

Subject: Par
From: Erik Bloodaxe
Date: Tue Jan 23 23:21:39 1990

Shit man, don't drink and think about things like that. It's not
healthy, mentally or physically.

Come to Austin, Texas.

We'll keep you somewhere until we can get something worked out for

A year in minimum security (Club Fed) is better then chucking a whole
life. Hell, you're 19!!  I have discarded the `permanent' solution for
good. Dead people can't get laid, but people in federal prisons DO get
conjugal visits!!!

Think of

Call over here at whatever time you read this ... I can see you are
really getting worried, so just fucking call ...

- Erik

Subject: Hah
From: The Parmaster
Date: Thu Jan 25 18:58:00 1990

Just keep in mind they see everything you do.  Believe me. I know.

- Par

Subject: Well shit.
From: The Parmaster
Date: Mon Jan 29 15:45:05 1990

It's happening soon guys.

I wish i could have bought more time.  And worked out a deal.  But
nada. They are nearby now.

I can tell which cars are theirs driving by outside.  This is the
weirdest case of Deja vu i've ever had.

Anyway got an interesting call today.  It was from Eddie, one of the
Bell systems computers.

It was rather fantasy like ...  Probably just his way of saying
`Goodbye'.  Eddie was a good friend, smartest damn UNIX box around ...
And he called today to tell me goodbye.

Now i know i'm fucked.  Thanks, Eddie, it's been real.  (whoever you
are) `ok eddie, this one's for you'

Much Later,

- Par

Subject: Par
From: Erik Bloodaxe
Date: Mon Jan 29 19:36:38 1990

Buddy, Par, you are over the edge ... lay off the weed.  Not everyone
with glasses and dark suits are Feds. Not all cars with generic
hubcaps are government issue.

Well, hell, I don't know what the hell `Eddie' is, but that's a real
bizarre message you left.

Fly to Austin ... like tomorrow ... got plenty of places to stash you
until things can be smoothed out for a calm transition.

- Erik

Subject: eehh...
From: Phoenix [from Australia]
Date: Tue Jan 30 07:25:59 1990


<wonders real REAL thoughtufully>
<and turns up a blank...>
what is young Par up to?

Subject: Par and Erik
From: Daneel Olivaw
Date: Mon Jan 29 21:10:00 1990

Erik, you aren't exactly the best person to be stashing people are

Subject: You know you are screwed when.
From: The Parmaster
Date: Wed Jan 31 14:26:04 1990

You know you are screwed

When surveyers survey
your neighbors regularly, and wear sunglasses when it's like 11 degrees
farenheit and cloudy as hell out.

When the same cars keep
driving by outside day and night. (I've been thinking about providing coffee an

- Par

Subject: heh, Par
From: The Mentor
Date: Wed Jan 31 16:37:04 1990

Ummm. I wear sunglasses when it's 11 degrees and cloudy ... so you can
eliminate that one.  :-)

Subject: Hmm, Par
From: Phoenix
Date: Thu Feb 01 10:22:46 1990

At least you arent getting shot at.

Subject: Par, why don't you ...
From: Ravage
Date: Thu Feb 01 10:56:04 1990

Why not just go out and say `hi' to the nice gentleman? If i kept
seeing the same people tooling around my neighborhood, i would
actively check them out if they seemed weird.

Subject: Par, jump 'em
From: Aston Martin
Date: Tue Feb 06 18:04:55 1990

What you could do is go out to one of the vans sitting in the street
(you know, the one with the two guys sitting in it all day) with a
pair of jumper cables. Tell them you've seen them sitting there all
day and you thought they were stuck. Ask them if they need a jump.

- Aston

Between these strange messages, Par often posted comments on technical matters. Other hackers routinely asked him questions about X.25 networks. Unlike some hackers, Par almost always offered some help. In fact, he believed that being `one of the teachers' made him a particular target. But his willingness to teach others so readily, combined with his relatively humble, self-effacing demeanour, made Par popular among many hackers. It was one reason he found so many places to stay.

Spring arrived, brushing aside a few of the hardships of a winter on the run, then summer. Par was still on the run, still dodging the Secret Service's national hunt for the fugitive. By autumn, Par had eluded law enforcement officials around the United States for more than a year. The gloom of another cold winter on the run sat on the horizon of Par's future, but he didn't care. Anything, everything was bearable. He could take anything Fate would dish up because he had something to live for.

Theorem was coming to visit him again.

When Theorem arrived in New York in early 1991, the weather was bitterly cold. They travelled to Connecticut, where Par was staying in a share-house with friends.

Par was nervous about a lot of things, but mostly about whether things would be the same with Theorem. Within a few hours of her arrival, his fears were assuaged. Theorem felt as passionately about him as she had in California more than twelve months before. His own feelings were even stronger. Theorem was a liferaft of happiness in the growing turmoil of his life.

But things were different in the outside world. Life on the run with Theorem was grim. Constantly dependent on other people, on their charity, they were also subject to their petty whims.

A room-mate in the share-house got very drunk one night and picked a fight with one of Par's friends. It was a major row and the friend stormed out. In a fit of intoxicated fury, the drunk threatened to turn Par in to the authorities. Slurring his angry words, he announced he was going to call the FBI, CIA and Secret Service to tell them all where Par was living.

Par and Theorem didn't want to wait around to see if the drunk would be true to his word. They grabbed their coats and fled into the darkness. With little money, and no place else to stay, they walked around for hours in the blistering, cold wind. Eventually they decided they had no choice but to return to the house late at night, hopefully after the drunk had fallen asleep.

They sidled up to the front of the house, alert and on edge. It was quite possible the drunk had called every law enforcement agency his blurry mind could recall, in which case a collection of agents would be lying in wait. The street was deadly quiet. All the parked cars were deserted. Par peered in a darkened window but he couldn't see anything. He motioned for Theorem to follow him into the house.

Though she couldn't see Par's face, Theorem could feel his tension. Most of the time, she revelled in their closeness, a proximity which at times seemed to border on telepathy. But at this moment, the extraordinary gift of empathy felt like a curse. Theorem could feel Par's all-consuming paranoia, and it filled her with terror as they crept through the hall, checking each room. Finally they reached Par's room, expecting to find two or three Secret Service agents waiting patiently for them in the dark.

It was empty.

They climbed into bed and tried to get some sleep, but Theorem lay awake in the dark for a little while, thinking about the strange and fearful experience of returning to the house. Though she spoke to Par on the phone almost every day when they were apart, she realised she had missed something.

Being on the run for so long had changed Par.

Some time after she returned to Switzerland, Theorem's access to Altos shrivelled up and died. She had been logging in through her old university account but the university eventually killed her access since she was no longer a student. Without access to any X.25 network linked to the outside world, she couldn't logon to Altos. Although she was never involved with hacking, Theorem had become quite addicted to Altos. The loss of access to the Swiss X.25 network--and therefore to Altos--left her feeling very depressed. She told Par over the telephone, in sombre tones.

Par decide to make a little present for Theorem. While most hackers broke into computers hanging off the X.25 networks, Par broke into the computers of the companies which ran the X.25 networks. Having control over the machines owned by Telenet or Tymnet was real power. And as the master of X.25 networks, Par could simply create a special account--just for Theorem--on Tymnet.

When Par finished making the account, he leaned back in his chair feeling pretty pleased with himself.

Account name: Theorem.

Password: ParLovesMe!

Well, thought Par, she's going to have to type that in every time she gets on the Tymnet network. Altos might be filled with the world's best hackers, and they might even try to flirt with Theorem, but she'll be thinking of me every time she logs on, he thought.

Par called her on the telephone and gave her his special present. When he told her the password to her new account, Theorem laughed. She thought it was sweet.

And so did the MOD boys.

Masters of Deception, or Destruction--it depended on who told the story--was a New York-based gang of hackers. They thought it would be cool to hack Altos. It wasn't that easy to get Altos shell access, which Theorem had, and most people had to settle for using one of the `guest' accounts. But it was much easier to hack Altos from a shell account than from a `guest' account. Theorem's account would be the targeted jump-off point.

How did MOD get Theorem's Altos password? Most probably they were watching one of the X.25 gateways she used as she passed through Tymnet on her way to Altos. Maybe the MOD boys sniffed her password en route. Or maybe they were watching the Tymnet security officials who were watching that gateway.

In the end it didn't matter how MOD got Theorem's password on Altos. What mattered was that they changed her password. When Theorem couldn't get into Altos she was beside herself. She felt like a junkie going cold turkey. It was too much. And of course she couldn't reach Par. Because he was on the run, she had to wait for him to call her. In fact she couldn't reach any of her other friends on Altos to ask for help. How was she going to find them? They were all hackers. They chose handles so no-one would know their real names.

What Theorem didn't know was that, not only had she lost access to Altos, but the MOD boys were using her account to hack the Altos system. To the outside world it appeared as though she was doing it.

Theorem finally managed to get a third-hand message to Gandalf, a well-known British hacker. She sought him out for two reasons. First, he was a good friend and was therefore likely to help her out. Second, Gandalf had root access on Altos, which meant he could give her a new password or account.

Gandalf had established quite a reputation for himself in the computer underground through the hacking group 8lgm--The Eight-Legged Groove Machine, named after a British band. He and his friend, fellow British hacker Pad, had the best four legs in the chorus line. They were a world-class act, and certainly some of the best talent to come out of the British hacking scene. But Gandalf and, to a lesser extent, Pad had also developed a reputation for being arrogant. They rubbed some of the American hackers the wrong way. Not that Pad and Gandalf seemed to care. Their attitude was: We're good. We know it. Bugger off.

Gandalf disabled Theorem's account on Altos. He couldn't very well just change the password and then send the new one through the extended grapevine that Theorem had used to get a message through to him. Clearly, someone had targeted her account specifically. No way was he going to broadcast a new password for her account throughout the underground. But the trouble was that neither Par nor Theorem knew what Gandalf had done.

Meanwhile, Par called Theorem and got an earful. An angry Par vowed to find out just who the hell had been messing with her account.

When the MOD boys told Par they were the culprits, he was a bit surprised because he had always been on good terms with them. Par told them how upset Theorem had been, how she gave him an earful. Then an extraordinary thing happened. Corrupt, the toughest, baddest guy in MOD, the black kid from the roughest part of New York, the hacker who gave shit to everyone because he could, apologised to Par.

The MOD guys never apologised, even when they knew they were in the wrong. Apologies never got anyone very far on a New York City street. It was an attitude thing. `I'm sorry, man' from Corrupt was the equivalent of a normal person licking the mud from the soles of your shoes.

The new password was: M0Dm0dM0D. That's the kind of guys they were.

Par was just signing off to try out the new password when Corrupt jumped in.

`Yeah, and ah, Par, there's something you should know.'

`Yeah?' Par answered, anxious to go.

`I checked out her mail. There was some stuff in it.'

Theorem's letters? Stuff? `What kind of stuff?' he asked.

`Letters from Gandalf.'


`Friendly letters. Real friendly.'

Par wanted to know, but at the same time, he didn't. He could have arranged root access on Altos long ago if he'd really wanted it. But he didn't. He didn't want it because it would mean he could access Theorem's mail. And Par knew that if he could, he would. Theorem was popular on Altos and, being the suspicious type, Par knew he would probably take something perfectly innocent and read it the wrong way. Then he would get in a fight with Theorem, and their time together was too precious for that.

`Too friendly,' Corrupt went on. It must have been hard for him to tell Par. Snagging a friend's girlfriend's password and breaking into her account was one thing. There wasn't much wrong with that. But breaking that kind of news, well, that was harsh. Especially since Corrupt had worked with Gandalf in 8lgm.

`Thanks,' Par said finally. Then he took off.

When Par tried out the MOD password, it didn't work of course, because Gandalf had disabled the account. But Par didn't know that. Finding out that Theorem's account was disabled didn't bother him, but discovering who disabled it for her didn't make Par all that happy. Still, when he confronted Theorem, she denied that anything was going on between her and Gandalf.

What could Par do? He could believe Theorem or he could doubt her. Believing her was hard, but doubting her was painful. So he chose to believe her.

The incident made Theorem take a long look at Altos. It was doing bad things to her life. In the days that she was locked out of the German chat system, she had made the unpleasant discovery that she was completely addicted. And she didn't like it at all. Staring at her life with fresh eyes, she realised she had been ignoring her friends and her life in Switzerland. What on earth was she doing, spending every night in front of a computer screen?

So Theorem made a tough decision.

She decided to stop using Altos forever.

Bad things seemed to happen to The Parmaster around Thanksgiving.

In late November 1991, Par flew up from Virginia Beach to New York. An acquaintance named Morty Rosenfeld, who hung out with the MOD hackers a bit, had invited him to come for a visit. Par thought a trip to the City would do him good.

Morty wasn't exactly Par's best friend, but he was all right. He had been charged by the Feds a few months earlier for selling a password to a credit record company which resulted in credit card fraud. Par didn't go in for selling passwords, but to each his own. Morty wasn't too bad in the right dose. He had a place on Coney Island, which was hardly the Village in Manhattan, but close enough, and he had a fold-out sofa bed. It beat sleeping on the floor somewhere else.

Par hung out with a Morty and a bunch of his friends, drinking and goofing around on Morty's computer.

One morning, Par woke up with a vicious hangover. His stomach was growling and there was nothing edible in the fridge, so he rang up and ordered pork fried rice from a Chinese take-away. Then he threw on some clothes and sat on the end of the sofa-bed, smoking a cigarette while he waited. He didn't start smoking until he was nineteen, some time late into his second year on the run. It calmed his nerves.

There was a knock at the front door. Par's stomach grumbled in response. As he walked toward the front door, he thought Pork Fried Rice, here I come. But when Par opened the front door, there was something else waiting for him.

The Secret Service.

Two men. An older, distinguished gentleman standing on the left and a young guy on the right. The young guy's eyes opened wide when he saw Par.

Suddenly, the young guy pushed Par, and kept pushing him. Small, hard, fast thrusts. Par couldn't get his balance. Each time he almost got his footing, the agent shoved the hacker backward again until he landed against the wall. The agent spun Par around so his face pressed against the wall and pushed a gun into his kidney. Then he slammed handcuffs on Par and started frisking him for weapons.

Par looked at Morty, now sobbing in the corner, and thought, You narced on me.

Once Par was safely cuffed, the agents flashed their badges to him. Then they took him outside, escorted him into a waiting car and drove into Manhattan. They pulled up in front of the World Trade Center and when Par got out the young agent swapped the cuffs so Par's hands were in front of him.

As the agents escorted the handcuffed fugitive up a large escalator, the corporate world stared at the trio. Business men and women in prim navy suits, secretaries and office boys all watched wide-eyed from the opposite escalator. And if the handcuffs weren't bad enough, the younger Secret Service agent was wearing a nylon jacket with a noticeable gun-shaped lump in the front pouch.

Why are these guys bringing me in the front entrance? Par kept thinking. Surely there must be a backdoor, a car park back entrance. Something not quite so public.

The view from any reasonably high floor of the World Trade Center is breathtaking, but Par never got a chance to enjoy the vista. He was hustled into a windowless room and handcuffed to a chair. The agents moved in and out, sorting out paperwork details. They uncuffed him briefly while they inked his fingers and rolled them across sheets of paper. Then they made him give handwriting samples, first his right hand then his left.

Par didn't mind being cuffed to the chair so much, but he found the giant metal cage in the middle of the fingerprinting room deeply disturbing. It reminded him of an animal cage, the kind used in old zoos.

The two agents who arrested him left the room, but another one came in. And the third agent was far from friendly. He began playing the bad cop, railing at Par, shouting at him, trying to unnerve him. But no amount of yelling from the agent could rile Par as much as the nature of the questions he asked.

The agent didn't ask a single question about Citibank. Instead, he demanded to hear everything Par knew about TRW.

All Par's worst nightmares about the killer spy satellite, about becoming the man who knew too much, rushed through his mind.

Par refused to answer. He just sat silently, staring at the agent.

Eventually, the older agent came back into the room, dragged the pitbull agent away and took him outside for a whispered chat. After that, the pitbull agent was all sweetness and light with Par. Not another word about TRW.

Par wondered why a senior guy from the Secret Service would tell his minion to clam up about the defence contractor? What was behind the sudden silence? The abrupt shift alarmed Par almost as much as the questions had in the first place.

The agent told Par he would be remanded in custody while awaiting extradition to California. After all the paperwork had been completed, they released him from the handcuffs and let him stand to stretch. Par asked for a cigarette and one of the agents gave him one. Then a couple of other agents--junior guys--came in.

The junior agents were very friendly. One of them even shook Par's hand and introduced himself. They knew all about the hacker. They knew his voice from outgoing messages on voicemail boxes he had created for himself. They knew what he looked like from his California police file, and maybe even surveillance photos. They knew his personality from telephone bridge conversations which had been recorded and from the details of his Secret Service file. Perhaps they had even tracked him around the country, following a trail of clues left in his flightpath. Whatever research they had done, one thing was clear. These agents felt like they knew him intimately--Par the person, not just Par the hacker.

It was a strange sensation. These guys Par had never met before chatted with him about the latest Michael Jackson video as if he was a neighbour or friend just returned from out of town. Then they took him further uptown, to a police station, for more extradition paperwork.

This place was no World Trade Center deluxe office. Par stared at the peeling grey paint in the ancient room, and then watched officers typing out reports using the two-finger hunt-and-peck method on electric typewriters--not a computer in sight. The officers didn't cuff Par to the desk. Par was in the heart of a police station and there was no way he was going anywhere.

While the officer handling Par was away from his desk for ten minutes, Par felt bored. So he began flipping through the folders with information on other cases on the officer's desk. They were heavy duty fraud cases--mafia and drug-money laundering--cases which carried reference to FBI involvement. These people looked hairy.

That day, Par had a quick appearance in court, just long enough to be given protective custody in the Manhattan detention complex known as the Tombs while he waited for the authorities from California to come and pick him up.

Par spent almost a week in the Tombs. By day three, he was climbing the walls. It was like being buried alive.

During that week, Par had almost no contact with other human beings--a terrible punishment for someone with so much need for a continual flow of new information. He never left his cell. His jailer slid trays of food into his cell and took them away.

On day six, Par went nuts. He threw a fit, began screaming and banging on the door. He yelled at the guard. Told him none too nicely that he wanted to `get the fuck outta here'. The guard said he would see if he could get Par transferred to Rikers Island, New York's notorious jail. Par didn't care if he was transferred to the moon, as long as he got out of solitary confinement.

Except for the serial killer, the north infirmary at Rikers Island was a considerable improvement on the Tombs. Par was only locked in his cell at night. During the day he was free to roam inside the infirmary area with other prisoners. Some of them were there because the authorities didn't want to put them in with the hardened criminals, and some of them were there because they were probably criminally insane.

It was an eclectic bunch. A fireman turned jewellery heister. A Colombian drug lord. A chop-shop ringleader, who collected more than 300 stolen cars, chopped them up, reassembled them as new and then sold them off. A man who killed a homosexual for coming onto him. `Faggot Killer', as he was known inside, hadn't meant to kill anyone: things had gotten a little out of hand; next thing he knew, he was facing ten to twelve on a murder rap.

Par wasn't wild about the idea of hanging out with a murderer, but he was nervous about what could happened to a young man in jail. Forging a friendship with Faggot Killer would send the right message. Besides, the guy seemed to be OK. Well, as long as you didn't look at him the wrong way.

On his first day, Par also met Kentucky, a wild-eyed man who introduced himself by thrusting a crumpled newspaper article into the hacker's hand and saying, `That's me'. The article, titled `Voices Told Him to Kill', described how police had apprehended a serial killer believed to be responsible for a dozen murders, maybe more. During his last murder, Kentucky told Par he had killed a woman--and then written the names of the aliens who had commanded him to do it on the walls of her apartment in her blood.

The jewellery heister tried to warn Par to stay away from Kentucky, who continued to liaise with the aliens on a regular basis. But it was too late. Kentucky decided that he didn't like the young hacker. He started shouting at Par, picking a fight. Par stood there, stunned and confused. How should he deal with an aggravated serial killer? And what the hell was he doing in jail with a serial killer raving at him anyway? It was all too much.

The jewellery heister rushed over to Kentucky and tried to calm him down, speaking in soothing tones. Kentucky glowered at Par, but he stopped yelling.

A few days into his stay at Rikers, Faggot Killer invited Par to join in a game of Dungeons and Dragons. It beat watching TV talk shows all day, so Par agreed. He sat down at the metal picnic table where Faggot Killer had laid out the board.

So it was that Par, the twenty-year-old computer hacker from California, the X.25 network whiz kid, came to play Dungeons and Dragons with a jewellery thief, a homophobic murderer and a mad serial killer in Rikers Island. Par found himself marvelling at the surrealism of the situation.

Kentucky threw himself into the game. He seemed to get off on killing hobgoblins.

`I'll take my halberd,' Kentucky began with a smile, `and I stab this goblin.' The next player began to make his move, but Kentucky interrupted. `I'm not done,' he said slowly, as a demonic grin spread across his face. `And I slice it. And cut it. It bleeds everywhere.' Kentucky's face tensed with pleasure.

The other three players shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Par looked at Faggot Killer with nervous eyes.

`And I thrust a knife into its heart,' Kentucky continued, the volume of his voice rising with excitement. `Blood, blood, everywhere blood. And I take the knife and hack him. And I hack and hack and hack.'

Kentucky jumped up from the table and began shouting, thrusting one arm downward through the air with an imaginary dagger, `And I hack and I hack and I hack!'

Then Kentucky went suddenly still. Everyone at the table froze. No-one dared move for fear of driving him over the edge. Par's stomach had jumped into his throat. He tried to gauge how many seconds it would take to extricate himself from the picnic table and make a break for the far side of the room.

In a daze, Kentucky walked away from the table, leaned his forehead against the wall and began mumbling quietly. The jewellery heister slowly followed and spoke to him briefly in hushed tones before returning to the table.

One of the guards had heard the ruckus and came up to the table.

`Is that guy OK?' he asked the jewellery heister while pointing to Kentucky.

Not even if you used that term loosely, Par thought.

`Leave him alone,' the heister told the guard. `He's talking to the aliens.'

`Right.' The guard turned around and left.

Every day, a nurse brought around special medicine for Kentucky. In fact, Kentucky was zonked out most of the time on a cup of horrible, smelly liquid. Sometimes, though, Kentucky secreted his medicine away and traded it with another prisoner who wanted to get zonked out for a day or so.

Those were bad days, the days when Kentucky had sold his medication. It was on one of those days that he tried to kill Par.

Par sat on a metal bench, talking to other prisoners, when suddenly he felt an arm wrap around his neck. He tried to turn around, but couldn't.

`Here. I'll show you how I killed this one guy,' Kentucky whispered to Par.

`No--No--' Par started to say, but Kentucky's biceps began pressing against Par's Adam's apple. It was a vice-like grip.

`Yeah. Like this. I did it like this,' Kentucky said as he tensed his muscle and pulled backward.

`No! Really, you don't need to. It's OK,' Par gasped. No air. His arms flailing in front of him.

I'm done for, Par thought. My life is over. Hacker Murdered by Serial Killer in Rikers Island. `Aliens Told Me to Do It.'

The omnipresent jewellery heister came up to Kentucky and started cooing in his ear to let Par go. Then, just when Par thought he was about to pass out, the jewellery heister pulled Kentucky off him.

Par reminded himself to always sit with his back against the wall.

Finally, after almost a month behind bars, Par was informed that an officer from the Monterey County sheriff's office was coming to take him back to California. Par had agreed to be extradited to California after seeing the inside of New York's jails. Dealing with the federal prosecutor in New York had also helped make up his mind.

The US Attorney's Office in New York gave Richard Rosen, who had taken the case on again, a real headache. They didn't play ball. They played `Queen for a Day'.

The way they negotiated reminded Rosen of an old American television game of that name. The show's host pulled some innocent soul off the street, seated her on a garish throne, asked her questions and then gave her prizes. The US Attorney's Office in New York wanted to seat Par on a throne, of sorts, to ask him lots of questions. At the end of the unfettered interrogation, they would hand out prizes. Prison terms. Fines. Convictions. As they saw fit. No guaranteed sentences. They would decide what leniency, if any, he would get at the end of the game.

Par knew what they were looking for: evidence against the MOD boys. He wasn't having a bar of that. The situation stank, so Par decided not to fight the extradition to California. Anything had to be better than New York, with its crazy jail inmates and arrogant federal prosecutors.

The officer from the Monterey sheriff's office picked Par up on 17 December 1991.

Par spent the next few weeks in jail in California, but this time he wasn't in any sort of protective custody. He had to share a cell with Mexican drug dealers and other mafia, but at least he knew his way around these people. And unlike the some of the people at Rikers, they weren't stark raving lunatics.

Richard Rosen took the case back, despite Par's having skipped town the first time, which Par thought was pretty good of the lawyer. But Par had no idea how good it would be for him until it came to his court date.

Par called Rosen from the jail, to talk about the case. Rosen had some big news for him.

`Plead guilty. You're going to plead guilty to everything,' he told Par.

Par thought Rosen had lost his marbles.

`No. We can win this case if you plead guilty,' Rosen assured him.

Par sat dumbfounded at the other end of the phone.

`Trust me,' the lawyer said.

The meticulous Richard Rosen had found a devastating weapon.

On 23 December 1991, Par pleaded guilty to two charges in Monterey County Juvenile Court. He admitted everything. The whole nine yards. Yes, I am The Parmaster. Yes, I broke into computers. Yes, I took thousands of credit card details from a Citibank machine. Yes, yes, yes.

In some way, the experience was cathartic, but only because Par knew Rosen had a brilliant ace up his sleeve.

Rosen had rushed the case to be sure it would be heard in juvenile court, where Par would get a more lenient sentence. But just because Rosen was in a hurry didn't mean he was sloppy. When he went through Par's file with a fine-toothed comb he discovered the official papers declared Par's birthday to be 15 January 1971. In fact, Par's birthday was some days earlier, but the DA's office didn't know that.

Under California law, a juvenile court has jurisdiction over citizens under the age of 21. You can only be tried and sentenced in a juvenile court if you committed the crimes in question while under the age of eighteen and you are still under the age of 21 when you plead and are sentenced.

Par was due to be sentenced on 13 January but on 8 January Rosen applied for the case to be thrown out. When Deputy DA David Schott asked why, Rosen dropped his bomb.

Par had already turned 21 and the juvenile court had no authority to pass sentence over him. Further, in California, a case cannot be moved into an adult court if the defendant has already entered a plea in a juvenile one. Because Par had already done that, his case couldn't be moved. The matter was considered `dealt with' in the eyes of the law.

The Deputy DA was flabbergasted. He spluttered and spewed. The DA's office had dropped the original charges from a felony to a misdemeanour. They had come to the table. How could this happen? Par was a fugitive. He had been on the run for more than two years from the frigging Secret Service, for Christ's sake. There was no way--NO WAY--he was going to walk out of that courtroom scot-free.

The court asked Par to prove his birthday. A quick driver's licence search at the department of motor vehicles showed Par and his lawyer were telling the truth. So Par walked free.

When he stepped outside the courthouse, Par turned his face toward the sun. After almost two months in three different jails on two sides of the continent, the sun felt magnificent. Walking around felt wonderful. Just wandering down the street made him happy.

However, Par never really got over being on the run.

From the time he walked free from the County Jail in Salinas, California, he continued to move around the country, picking up temporary work here and there. But he found it hard to settle in one place. Worst of all, strange things began happening to him. Well, they had always happened to him, but they were getting stranger by the month. His perception of reality was changing.

There was the incident in the motel room. As Par sat in the Las Vegas Travelodge on one if his cross-country treks, he perceived someone moving around in the room below his. Par strained to hear. It seemed like the man was talking to him. What was the man trying to tell him? Par couldn't quite catch the words, but the more he listened, the more Par was sure he had a message for him which he didn't want anyone else to hear. It was very frustrating. No matter how hard he tried, no matter how he put his ear down to the floor or against the wall, Par couldn't make it out.

The surreal experiences continued. As Par described it, on a trip down to Mexico, he began feeling quite strange, so he went to the US consulate late one afternoon to get some help. But everyone in the consulate behaved bizarrely.

They asked him for some identification, and he gave them his wallet. They took his Social Security card and his California identification card and told him to wait. Par believed they were going to pull up information about him on a computer out the back. While waiting, his legs began to tremble and a continuous shiver rolled up and down his spine. It wasn't a smooth, fluid shiver, it was jerky. He felt like he was sitting at the epicentre of an earthquake and it frightened him. The consulate staff just stared at him.

Finally Par stopped shaking. The other staff member returned and asked him to leave.

`No-one can help you here,' he told Par.

Why was the consular official talking to him like that? What did he mean--Par had to leave? What was he really trying to say? Par couldn't understand him. Another consular officer came around to Par, carrying handcuffs. Why was everyone behaving in such a weird way? That computer. Maybe they had found some special message next to his name on that computer.

Par tried to explain the situation, but the consulate staff didn't seem to understand. He told them about how he had been on the run from the Secret Service for two and a half years, but that just got him queer looks. Blank faces. No comprehende. The more he explained, the blanker the faces became.

The consular officials told him that the office was closing for the day. He would have to leave the building. But Par suspected that was just an excuse. A few minutes later, a Mexican policeman showed up. He talked with one of the consular officials, who subsequently handed him what Par perceived to be a slip of paper wrapped around a wad of peso notes.

Two more policemen came into the consulate. One of them turned to Par and said, `Leave!' but Par didn't answer. So the Mexican police grabbed Par by the arms and legs and carried him out of the consulate. Par felt agitated and confused and, as they crossed the threshold out of the consulate, he screamed.

They put him in a police car and took him to a jail, where they kept him overnight.

The next day, they released Par and he wandered the city aimlessly before ending up back at the US consulate. The same consular officer came up to him and asked how he was feeling.

Par said, `OK.'

Then Par asked if the official could help him get back to the border, and he said he could. A few minutes later a white van picked up Par and took him to the border crossing. When they arrived, Par asked the driver if he could have $2 so he could buy a ticket for the train. The driver gave it to him.

Par boarded the train with no idea of where he was headed.

Theorem visited Par in California twice in 1992 and the relationship continued to blossom. Par tried to find work so he could pay her back the $20000 she had lent him during his years on the run and during his court case, but it was hard going. People didn't seem to want to hire him.

`You don't have any computer skills,' they told him. He calmly explained that, yes, he did indeed have computer skills.

`Well, which university did you get your degree from?' they asked.

No, he hadn't got his skills at any university.

`Well, which companies did you get your work experience from?'

No, he hadn't learned his skills while working for a company.

`Well, what did you do from 1989 to 1992?' the temp agency staffer inevitably asked in an exasperated voice.

`I ... ah ... travelled around the country.' What else was Par going to say? How could he possibly answer that question?

If he was lucky, the agency might land him a data-entry job at $8 per hour. If he was less fortunate, he might end up doing clerical work for less than that.

By 1993, things had become a little rocky with Theorem. After four and a half years together, they broke up. The distance was too great, in every sense. Theorem wanted a more stable life--maybe not a traditional Swiss family with three children and a pretty chalet in the Alps, but something more than Par's transient life on the road.

The separation was excruciatingly painful for both of them. Conversation was strained for weeks after the decision. Theorem kept thinking she had made a mistake. She kept wanting to ask Par to come back. But she didn't.

Par drowned himself in alcohol. Shots of tequila, one after the other. Scull it. Slam the glass down. Fill it to the top. Throw back another. After a while, he passed out. Then he was violently ill for days, but somehow he didn't mind. It was cleansing to be so ill.

Somewhere along the way, Rosen managed to get Par's things returned from the Secret Service raids. He passed the outdated computer and other equipment back to Par, along with disks, print-outs and notes.

Par gathered up every shred of evidence from his case, along with a bottle of Jack Daniels, and made a bonfire. He shredded print-outs, doused them in lighter fluid and set them alight. He fed the disks into the fire and watched them melt in the flames. He flipped through the pages and pages of notes and official reports and let them pull out particular memories. Then he crumpled up each one and tossed it in the fire. He even sprinkled a little Jack Daniels across the top for good measure.

As he pulled the pages from a Secret Service report, making them into tight paper balls, something caught his eye and made him wonder. Many hackers around the world had been busted in a series of raids following the first Thanksgiving raid at Par's house back in 1988. Erik Bloodaxe, the MOD boys, the LOD boys, The Atlanta Three, Pad and Gandalf, the Australians--they had all been either busted or raided during 1989, 1990 and 1991.

How were the raids connected? Were the law-enforcement agencies on three different continents really organised enough to coordinate worldwide attacks on hackers?

The Secret Service report gave him a clue. It said that in December 1988, two informants had called Secret Service special agents in separate divisions with information about Par. The informants--both hackers--told the Secret Service that Par was not the `Citibank hacker' the agency was looking for. They said the real `Citibank hacker' was named Phoenix.

Phoenix from Australia.

Contents | Previous: Chapter 3 -- The American Connection | Next: Chapter 5 -- The Holy Grail