“Yes, looks like these are the binaries.” He looked up. “Give me a few hours to sift through this. I’ll let you know what I find.”

I pulled up a chair across from his desk and sat down, crossing my legs at the knee. I eyed the mess on Sid’s desk. The surface was decorated with no less than a dozen energy drink empties and a few stacks of paperwork. He lifted an eyebrow when we made eye contact.

“Blake’s in jail, Sid. I’m not leaving here until you find something.”

Geoff spoke up. “Can I take a look?”

“Let me make a copy, one sec.” Sid tapped a few more keys and removed the drive. “Here,” he said, handing it to him.

A few eternal minutes passed when Sid spoke again.

“Well, this is a good sign.”

“What?” I asked, sitting up straighter.

“Looks like the code that originally ran on the machines was modified by an outside program.”

“What does that mean exactly?”

“Basically, someone attached a virus by using a zero-day exploit to Blake’s code to inflate Fitzgerald’s votes on the day of the election. If Blake had written this himself, I seriously doubt he’d use this method.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Why attach a program to your own code when you’re capable of writing one comprehensive piece of code that does the job?”

Hearing that made me loathe Evans all over again. If he’d had people looking at this, they should have suspected the same. Maybe that was why Carmody had given me the drive. I wanted to ask him why he’d given it to me, but I figured there was a good reason he hadn’t stuck around long enough for me to ask.

“Okay. That’s a start, but we need a way to prove Trevor did this.”

“Um”—Geoff’s expression was tight with concentration as his fingers flew over the keyboard—“maybe we can’t put Trevor’s name right on this code. But Blake’s is already on it, right?”

“Yes, the encryption routines are his. Everyone including the authorities know this,” I said.

“Okay. Then theoretically we should be able to prove that two different people wrote the two pieces of code. It’s kind of like handwriting analysis, or distinguishing fingerprints. Code patterns can be analyzed the same way.”

“You can do that?” I asked.

“There are legit programs out there, but since this is, uh, sensitive, I have a friend who’s got a homebrew version of his own written. I can have him run this through his program, compare the two versions and highlight the discrepancies.”

“Let’s do it,” I said without hesitation. That’s what I needed, something concrete. Everything outside of the charges they were holding Blake on now was based on conjecture.

“If I had something else that Trevor and Blake wrote, that would help so I could compare the two,” Geoff added.

“There are logs from when Trevor started attacking Clozpin,” Sid said. “If we can prove the virus isn’t Blake’s code, we should also be able to prove that whoever hacked our site and any number of the others in Blake’s fleet were the same person,” Sid said. “I don’t have the Clozpin server logins anymore though, unfortunately.”

James spoke up. “Mine still work. I’ve been snooping on their progress since I left. Hang on, I’ll send them over.”

Sid chuckled. “Amateurs.”

I was about to ask how long all this would take when my phone rang. Daniel was calling me.

“I’ll be right back.” I went to my office and closed the door behind me. “Daniel, hi.”

“I got your message,” he said.

“Thank you for calling me back.”

“I told you not to call.” His tone was less than warm.

“Well, I don’t listen very well.”

“Obviously. There’s too much heat right now. The election aside, the feds are up my ass thinking I’m behind all of this along with Blake. You don’t want to get mixed up in this any more than you already are.”

“They arrested Blake.”

He cleared his throat gruffly. “I’m aware.”

“He didn’t do this.”

“You’d better hope to God he didn’t, Erica. I’m not going to bother telling you how much money I’ve sunk into this campaign. This isn’t just money. This is a life’s work, and if he came between me and—”

“I know who did this, and I need your help to find him.”

For all the hurt Daniel had caused, all I wanted to do was smack him in the head for how single-minded he was being. Finally, finally, I was making progress and he was still hung up on Blake’s supposed guilt.

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