In 2004, I was working as a systems administrator for a software company. To this day I couldn’t tell you what the software did. I could however, tell you how much traffic the network could bear.
The owner, Richard, was a wealthy man having investments in import/export, real estate, banking and technology. Richard had come into his wealth late in his career, and he had become paranoid over the safety of his family. After all, there are shady characters in this world who make their livings on ransoms.
I would often see this dude wandering around the office. Husky, wearing a jean jacket and sporting a huge moustache that matched his head of greying red hair.
One day, I came back to my desk to find Red Head Moustache Dude sitting in my guest chair. He introduced himself as Severin, and he needed my help desperately: His laptop wouldn’t boot.
No prob. Pull out the battery, wait a few seconds. Put it back in. Power up. We’re in.
“Buddy, you’re good!”
“It’s nothing. It’s a very simple trick.”
“Richard was right when he said I could trust you.”
Since that day, Severin became a regular fixture at my desk. We’d go for lunch once in awhile and he’d give me lifts home in his Ford Ranger when I finished late. You’d never know that there were three cameras staring out those tinted windows.
One day he came by and quizzed me on wireless security and discreet web cams. He said he was now in charge of building security and wanted my expert opinion. Wireless protocols were still knew to me, but it would be simple enough to set up.
Severin always seemed to have a project up his sleeve. Some business, some personal. On one occasion, it was to salvage his hard drive and retrieve some sensitive data from his various contracts. He quietly mentioned that if I found any compromising photos of his girlfriend Emily (which I did), to just forget that I saw them (which I couldn’t). Then he left and said that he’d be back in a week.
The next time Severin materialized at my desk he had a gash on his forehead and I could see through his moustache that he was missing a tooth.
Severin simply said, “Natives. Thunder Bay.”
“How’s the other guy?”
“Say, what are you doing Saturday?”
“What do you say you come help me set up the network. Emily’ll have some dinner for us when we’re done.”
“Sure, sounds good.”
Getting there was easy enough. About 45 minutes from Montreal in a small town that I won’t even name. Tucked away in the woods was Severin’s house. Wood and stone and surrounded by trees on three sides and a craggy rock-face at the back. It was a peaceful place. (I later found out that it was actually Emily’s house and that Severin was just moving in.)
Setting up the network was easy. Trying to concentrate while Severin jumped from project to project was the challenge. I’d be configuring his router’s subnet when he’d interrupt me and ask me if I knew what was wrong with that computer in the corner. How should I know?
“I think it’s the RAM”, Severin would say.
“Could be. I’ll look at it after.”
“Hey, you need some seismic sensors?”
“Not really. What would I use them for?”
“You put them under the paving stones. Tell when someone’s coming up the walk.”
“Why do you have those?”
“Got ’em on Ebay. Half a million of ’em. Got ’em for a song!”
At that point, Emily poked her head in. ” Just throw the damn things out, Sev! I want my goddamn basement back. Come on. Dinner’s ready.”