‘What’s wrong?’ he asked.
‘It crashed. Completely. All I’m getting is the blue screen of death. And I have that presentation at the end of the week. My whole thing is on there.’ She pointed at the computer.
‘We could take it to a PC repair place if you want.’
Darcy thought for a moment, and then sighed. ‘Yeah, I guess you’re right,’ she said. ‘At this point, it’s just an expensive paperweight.’
After using Nick’s laptop to do a little research, Darcy found a nearby computer repair shop. They were still open, so she gathered up her laptop and its power cord, and headed over.
When she got there, she was glad to see that it wasn’t crowded. In just a few minutes, she was able to speak to the technician, who introduced himself as Frank. She turned the computer on, and within seconds, was able to show him the problem. When she’d finished, she asked, ‘Do you think you can fix this?’
‘I can’t guarantee it, but I know I’ve seen this sort of thing before. It should be straightforward.’
‘Oh, I hope you’re right.’
Darcy completed the paperwork and left her computer at the shop.
Sure enough, the next day, they called Darcy from the shop. They’d needed to do some work on the laptop, but they were able to repair it. ‘Thank God,’ she said when they told her. She went to the shop as soon as she could and picked the laptop up.
Frank smiled to himself as Darcy left the shop. That had been an easier job than he’d thought it would be. It hadn’t taken him long at all to get her banking and credit card passwords. And he knew how to be careful enough with them so that she probably wouldn’t notice. A little bit here, a little bit there, that was the best way. You couldn’t get too greedy.
Three days later, Darcy was scrolling through her online checking account when she noticed something.
‘Hey, Nick, did you get something from Amazon?’
‘I don’t think so. Why?’
‘I just saw this charge – $20.00. And I’m pretty sure I didn’t buy anything.’
‘Huh. Maybe we should try to find out from Amazon?’
Then, a week after that, Darcy’s credit card statement came. She looked carefully through everything. Then she spotted it: a $15.00 charge at an online shop she’d never heard of. That was when she went to the bank. Their fraud prevention manager assured her that they’d look into it; in the meantime, they gave her a new credit card.
Frank tried again. Damn, he thought. She must have noticed that charge on the credit card. This was the second time her card number had been declined when he tried to use it. Well, that was no big problem. He had her social security number, so it’d be easy to get another card in her name.
‘But I don’t understand,’ Darcy said. ‘You told me with my credit rating, I’d have no problem getting an auto loan.’
‘I know,’ said the Honda dealer. ‘But since you were in over a month ago, we had to do a new credit check today. And this one – well – it’s not good. See for yourself.’ He swung his computer screen around so Darcy could see it. Her face paled as she looked at the information.
‘But I haven’t taken out any of these loans! None of this is accurate!’ Then she saw the look on the dealer’s face. ‘You don’t believe me, do you?’
‘It’s not a matter of what I believe,’ the dealer said carefully. ‘It’s our policy. I can’t give you financing with this credit rating. And, frankly, I doubt you’d get it elsewhere, either. Maybe you could try a credit repair place?’
‘There’s nothing to repair!’ Darcy said firmly. It didn’t make a difference, though.
As soon as she got home, Darcy told Nick what had happened. Then they sat down together and looked at all of their accounts. There was no doubt about it: Darcy’s identity had been stolen. Darcy spent the next hour, half in tears, making telephone calls to her bank, her credit card company, the credit reporting agencies, and the police. There’d be other calls, but at least she wouldn’t be liable for any more money. When she’d finished reporting everything, she sagged back against the sofa cushions.
‘What I want to know,’ she thought aloud, ‘is how this happened.’
‘Do you mean who did it?’ Nick asked.
‘Exactly. The police will investigate, but they’ve got murders and rapes and things to deal with. It’ll take them a while.’
‘You’re not going to do the Miss Marple thing, are you?’
Darcy threw a sofa cushion at him for that. ‘No, of course not! I’m just trying to think how it started.’ She was quiet for a few minutes. Then, she sat up straight and looked over at Nick. ‘You know what? It started right after I got my computer fixed!’
‘Maybe they’ll know what happened, then.’
‘Exactly! I’m going over there now.’
When she got to the computer repair shop, Darcy asked to see the manager.
‘I’m Luke Preston, the manager here. How can I help you?’
‘My identity’s been stolen, and it started right after I had my computer fixed.’ And Darcy told him the whole story.
‘Frank’s not in today,’ Luke said. ‘But he’ll be in first thing tomorrow, and I’ll ask him if he noticed anything. We’ll do whatever we can to help you out.’
‘Thank you,’ Darcy said.
The next morning, Darcy got into her Honda Civic and started her twenty-minute commute to work. It was a good thing the car was still serviceable even though she was ready for a new one. About halfway through the trip, she noticed a pickup truck behind her. It started following her too closely, so she speeded up a bit. So did the truck. It was still following her when she came to the bridge that crossed a small local lake. The truck behind her started going faster, to get around her. She gripped the steering wheel, hoping that the maniac driving the truck would pass her. The last thing she heard was the metal guardrail smashing as the truck pushed her car off the road and over the bridge.
When Luke got to the computer repair shop, he got out of his truck and checked for damage. There were a few scratches and dents, but his truck was a lot sturdier than the Honda had been. And he knew someone who would fix it for cash, without asking a lot of questions. That woman hadn’t even noticed that he’d seen her car and license tag when she left the shop. Goddamned Frank must have gotten sloppy this time. He didn’t like cleaning up messes this way, but who knew what that woman might have spread around? He’d have to think about how to handle Frank. In the meantime, he needed to open his shop.
Ten minutes later, the door opened. A young man came in holding a laptop.
‘May I help you?’ Luke asked.
‘Yeah, I hope so. My computer won’t boot up properly.’
‘Let’s take a look at it and see what we can do.’