“No fucking way,” Bryce said. “Have you completely lost your mind?”
“Why not? Mr. P. thinks it’s the right thing to do. Why won’t you come with me?” Madison pouted dramatically, even though she knew that would yield no fruit with her dearest friend.
“Okay, Mads, you need to think this through,” Bryce said. “Suppose you go to the FBI. They say, ‘How did you learn about this?’ What are you going to tell them?”
“Confidential sources?” Madison suggested.
“They’ll lock you in a room and stick toothpicks under your fingernails until you tell them.”
“Oh, come on. They will not.”
“Fine. But they will pressure you to tell them, and they’ll be super scary, and you’ll totally crack like you did when Judy pointed the gun at you.”
“Fair,” she conceded.
“And then let’s say they investigate. How long until they look at the security cameras and see you running around in the building like Peter Rabbit in Mr. McGregor’s garden?”
“Nice visual,” she said.
“Thank you,” Bryce replied with a proud smirk. “And then how long until they find the webcam? Seriously, you’re looking at trespassing, wiretapping, and who knows what else. It’s gonna turn out the olds are doing something perfectly legal and harmless, and you’re getting five years with good behavior.”
“Okay, okay. I see your point. But you heard what they said in that meeting. We can’t just sit here and do nothing. What if someone gets hurt?”
“Hurt by what?” he asked. “Falling crates of peanut butter?”
“I was thinking the guns,” she replied with a scowl. “And the drugs. Mr. P. said they sound like a doomsday cult. Gathering provisions for an eventual mass suicide like Jonestown, or a shootout with the feds like Waco.”
“Well he’s right about that. Although the whole government conspiracy thing doesn’t line up with that theory at all,” he pointed out.
“No. You’re right. It doesn’t. None of this makes any sense. That’s why I think we should get the FBI to look into it.”
Bryce sighed. “There’s no way I’m going down there. Do you think the FBI has a way to send them a tip online? Like anonymously?”
Madison pulled out her phone and searched using her browser. “Yeah,” she said. “First hit is an online tip form.”
“Except that can’t really be anonymous,” Bryce said. “Because they can just trace the computer or phone you used to report it. Right?”
“I don’t know,” Madison said. She immediately started dialing her phone. Cindy answered on the first ring.
“Hey, Cindy, it’s Madison. I have a computer question.”
“Oh, wow! Cool! Yeah, okay, shoot,” Cindy replied.
Madison stifled a laugh at Cindy’s enthusiasm. “So suppose I go onto a website and I want to fill out a form, but I don’t want them to know who I am. Can I just use private browsing or incognito mode or whatever for that?”
Cindy laughed. “Oh, sweetie. No. You mean like the private browsing button in the browser itself? No, that doesn’t do shit. They still see your IP address and can fully profile your hardware if they want. That channel is leaky as hell.”
“Oh,” Madison said. “Well that sucks.”
“You need Tor,” Cindy said.
“What’s Tor?” Madison asked.
“It’s a special browser for this kind of thing. It’s super encrypted and routes your connection all over the world so they can’t find out where you are coming from. Dark web 101 stuff. It was invented by US Navy intelligence.”
“Oh! That sounds perfect. Like, even the FBI wouldn’t be able to trace it?”
“Not unless they have a backdoor nobody knows about, and that seems unlikely. Maybe the NSA or the DIA, but I don’t think the FBI can break Tor,” Cindy said. “You hacking the FBI now? That’s a little risky, to be honest.”
Madison laughed. “No. Not hacking. I just thought we should report the warehouse to them, so they can check it out.”
“Oh, got it. But you don’t want them to know it’s you reporting it.”
“Right,” Madison said.
“Do they have an online tip form?” Cindy asked.
“Yeah,” Madison said. “You can google it.”
There was a short delay. “Cindy is the shit!” she whispered to Bryce. “I love this girl!”
“Okay, I’m looking at it in the Tor browser,” Cindy said. “It looks like you can do an anonymous tip. I can fill this out for you.”
“Oh, that would be awesome! But hey, Bryce was saying that if the FBI investigates, they might find the webcam.”
“Ooh,” Cindy said. “You know, that’s totally right. If you want me to do this, we should tear all that stuff down first.”
“Oh,” Madison said, dejected. “Well that’s a bummer. I was hoping I might learn more by watching that feed.”
“Up to you,” Cindy said. “We can wait and report it when you have more info. But Bryce is totally right. We need to tear that down before we do the tip line thing.”
“What do you think, Bryce?” Madison asked. “Cindy says she needs to kill the video feed before we do the FBI report. Should I wait awhile?”
Bryce shrugged. “No idea, Mads.”
Madison thought a moment, watching the silent feed of an empty room in her computer browser. “Kill it,” she said into the phone. “I’ve got enough. This latest meeting wasn’t really all that different from what I heard in the first one.”
The video feed disappeared from her browser, replaced by an error message.
“Wait!” she said. “It just went down!”
Cindy giggled. “Yes, silly. I took it down. Bleaching the hard drive on the laptop now. Okay, it’s bricked. They should use something more up-to-date anyway. They’ll figure it out when their key cards stop working.”
Madison looked at Bryce and mouthed “Holy shit.”
“Cleaning up the router now. Should I brick that, too?” Cindy asked. “Yeah, Ima brick that, too,” she answered her own question. “They’ll think there was a power glitch that killed both the router and the laptop. Maybe I should hack the grid and do a little brownout for effect?” she asked.
“No!” Madison said.
Cindy laughed. “I was joking! I don’t know how to do that. Anyway, we’re ghosts. They’ve got some equipment to replace over there to get their internet access back. They’ll never find any trace we were there.”
“So it’s safe to do the tip form now?” Madison asked.
“Already on it,” Cindy replied. “What should I do for the actual tip? Maybe just the address?”
“How about the address, and then say they have stockpiles of guns and ammunition. That should get the FBI’s attention, right?”
“Done,” Cindy said. “Anything else I can help you with today?”
Madison laughed. “Best customer service department ever, Cindy.”
“If you’ll hold on the line, there will be a short survey about your experience today,” Cindy joked.
“Oh my God, I love her,” Madison mouthed to Bryce. “Thanks so much, Cindy. You’re the absolute best.”
“No worries. Let me know if you need anything else. I gotta get on camera now. Fans are lined up at the gates to see my cleavage.”
“Oh geez,” Madison said. “Good luck with that!” She ended the call.
“I’m a little jealous,” Bryce pouted. “I think maybe you love Cindy more than you love me.”
“I’m just infatuated,” Madison reassured him. “It’ll pass once the honeymoon is over.”
“I certainly hope so!” he said. “I need to be your number one and only.”