Novelist and IT Expert Lee Barckmann's New Tech-Thriller Exposes Portland's Underbelly While Satirizing the Narcissistic Social Media IndustryBuy Now
Title: Digging Up New Business: The Swiftpad Takeover
Authors: Lee Barckmann
Publisher: Inkwater Press Pages: 318
Trim Size: 6"x9"
From the Publisher
6750 SW Franklin Street, Suite A
Portland, OR 97223-2542
Today business is about eyeballs on the screen. Narcissism is the shiny object that always attracts, and today it drives the bottom line. You have to be the star in your own show, and now, with the Internet social media sensation SwiftPad, there are new episodes about you each time you connect!
A new girl in the Rose City has a plan to capture the whole world's attention. She hooks up with a local pothead/Lothario to create SwiftPad, a renegade social media app that promises to convert the world's fascination with itself into billions in cash for the crew and their backers.
But when a sadistic killer's handiwork is uncovered, new clues to an old crime point to Portland's IT community. He is out there, using his high-tech talent to mock efforts to catch him.
More than a Tech-Thriller, Digging Up New Business The SwiftPad Takeover is also a raffish, satiric account of how we are coping with the sweeping changes of recent decades.
The first woman had worked with me at Bonneville Power. It was dumb luck I got away with it. It just happened, although I admit I had thought about it, and of course I planned it. I was just sort of daydreaming really, but got more and more specific in my mind about what I was going to do, as the days passed. I am not a deviant predator, and I am not sick or bent. I didn't want to go to jail, which anyone would say was a normal and sane reaction. I am not suicidal or looking for martyrdom. I was not, and am not a monster. A monster is unthinking and unfeeling, and I am certainly not that!
Kathy thought I was funny and probably handsome. She told me she had received critical letters about "environmental issues" with the utility sub-station and she didn't know how to answer them. When we talked, there was that undercurrent of flirting that both of us were too professional (or too shy) to openly acknowledge. I told her I helped design the station, which was not true. I was an IT guy, but I can read plans. Then she said she would get back to me for the structural details and might have other questions too.
But she didn't contact me that day, so I waited for her as we were leaving work and I timidly asked her out for a drink. She said no, but in a nice way. I acted embarrassed (because I was) and apologized (to hide my anger at her for refusing my invitation). She touched my arm and smiled and said she would like to see the electrical transformer that I told her about. She said she had to answer the letters from the "bird watchers." I said when the transformer is completed, they will hardly notice it, "low impact," very unobtrusive. She handed me her keys and I drove her car to the site. This turn of events upset my plans because I expected we would take mine. However, it was a stroke of luck, because getting rid of her car later was what saved me from getting caught.
It was a beautiful isolated spot that overlooked the Columbia on the edge of the Yakima Delta Nature preserve. The hole was dug and the survey points showed precisely where the electrical box would be set. The wooden forms for the concrete were in place. As I stopped the car there was a nervous silence between us. She began to fidget with her purse and suggested we go get that drink, but it was too late, for me or her. I pulled her out of the car by her hair. Halfway out of the car she stopped struggling, although she continued to cry and beg me not to. But as I said, it was too late.
After we made love, I had to strangle her. At that point I had no other options. I buried her where the transformer was to be placed. The hole was dug, but I knew there was enough space for the concrete and the dirt that covered her. The rake and shovel were in the unlocked portable shed (as I knew they would be). I left the top rough and dirt clods strewn around the surrounding area. I knew that the next step was to tamp it down and compact it with a hand roller and then pour the concrete base. It was just an electrical box.
I drove her car away and left it on the street several blocks from my apartment. The next evening, Friday, I drove it to Seattle, wiped it down very thoroughly, parked it and took a bus back to Richland, through Spokane. I got back just before ten A.M., showered and crawled into bed, totally exhausted. But I knew I had left too many clues, and I really didn't sleep.
I went over everything in my mind, trying to figure out what I had forgotten. I had been very scrupulous in not talking to her or showing any interest in her before that day so she would not tell her friends about me. But I worried she might have mentioned me to someone in the office. I was almost sure no one had seen us leave and was pretty sure no one had noticed us in the break room previously, but as each hour passed, I lay awake worrying more and more - about what, I wasn't sure.
There was evidence all over: footprints, tire tracks, who knows what else. The tire tracks scared me most of all. By Friday afternoon the police were looking for her. This was of course years before I had built my access into the police communications system (that wouldn't come for another ten years, after I moved to Portland) so I only knew about what they were doing from the local newspaper and TV. They found the car in Seattle Sunday afternoon, and that brought heat on the staff at Bonneville Power. They questioned everyone, and the detective in charge questioned all of the men, and it seemed he took special interest in me, because his questions were very brusque and aggressive. And, I really didn't have an alibi, other than reading in bed.
But, as you must have guessed by now, I was never charged, although I suspected then and know now that they kept a file opened on me. I never made it into the FBI NCIC (National Crime Information Center) as a "person of interest." (I had access for a little while, before they changed the lock.)
They never connected the transformer site with her disappearance. It was never a crime scene.
I didn't begin to think about doing it again until I got to Portland. You think I am lying and that I could not wait four years without doing it again? Well, then you don't know me. I am very disciplined. For me the memory of an event becomes bolder and clearer as time passes. It, for the most part, suffices. Anything can be overdone. The Epicurean principle of "moderation in all things" applies to everything of course, but after a while...
Anyway, I wasn't the only one who couldn't take my eyes off of Regina. I walked by her cubicle carefully, head down, not too fast or too slow, staying out of sight, never looking directly at her or anyone else. I walked by the construction site early in the morning, watching, noticing who arrived first and when. Sometimes I would leave work early and notice who left first, noting the progress they made each night, watching who locked up and when. As the work on the station progressed it inflamed my imagination; it was just like before, I thought. I walked down to the construction office on the sixth floor and figured out the pecking order of the staff. I watched as they pulled the project plans from the rack. Sometimes I would see the crew chief talking to the engineers or the inspectors. I noticed where he sat. The crew chief had a set of keys and I noted where he kept them.
Getting her to go out to the lake was easy. It was the same drill, shy flirting, meek, never letting her know that I knew everything about her. Led her to the subject slowly. "Have you ever seen a liquid natural gas pump station? That technology is going to be the company's bread and butter...Let's take a look at the utility vault..." No hesitation, her eyes lit up. I could tell it wasn't the technology that interested her...
It was dark and deserted and I didn't even need to rape her. I was always surprised how attracted women were to me. She wore a skirt, and as I started taking her panties off, she lifted her derriere to make it easier. I have to admit, that got me angry. Her animal desire shocked and disgusted me, to be honest. It affected my...I suddenly was not "ready," as they say on TV. So I started to beat her. But then it was good. Very good.
When I finished I strangled her slowly. I let her recover her breath and beg. Then I fucked...I really fucked her! It was the greatest experience of my life; the release was total. I came like a fire hose and then finished the job.
I unlocked the gate and carried her in. They had even left shovels and rakes out for me again. It took me ten minutes and she disappeared under the ground and concrete, above the utility vault.