They climbed into bed and tried to get some sleep, but Theorem lay
awake in the dark for a little while, thinking about the strange and
fearful experience of returning to the house. Though she spoke to Par
on the phone almost every day when they were apart, she realised she
had missed something.
Being on the run for so long had changed Par.
Some time after she returned to Switzerland, Theorem's access to Altos
shrivelled up and died. She had been logging in through her old
university account but the university eventually killed her access
since she was no longer a student. Without access to any X.25 network
linked to the outside world, she couldn't logon to Altos. Although she
was never involved with hacking, Theorem had become quite addicted to
Altos. The loss of access to the Swiss X.25 network--and therefore to
Altos--left her feeling very depressed. She told Par over the
telephone, in sombre tones.
Par decide to make a little present for Theorem. While most hackers
broke into computers hanging off the X.25 networks, Par broke into the
computers of the companies which ran the X.25 networks. Having control
over the machines owned by Telenet or Tymnet was real power. And as the
master of X.25 networks, Par could simply create a special account--just
for Theorem--on Tymnet.
When Par finished making the account, he leaned back in his chair
feeling pretty pleased with himself.
Account name: Theorem.
Well, thought Par, she's going to have to type that in every time she
gets on the Tymnet network. Altos might be filled with the world's
best hackers, and they might even try to flirt with Theorem, but
she'll be thinking of me every time she logs on, he thought.
Par called her on the telephone and gave her his special present. When
he told her the password to her new account, Theorem laughed. She
thought it was sweet.
And so did the MOD boys.
Masters of Deception, or Destruction--it depended on who told the
story--was a New York-based gang of hackers. They thought it would be
cool to hack Altos. It wasn't that easy to get Altos shell access,
which Theorem had, and most people had to settle for using one of the
`guest' accounts. But it was much easier to hack Altos from a shell
account than from a `guest' account. Theorem's account would be the
targeted jump-off point.
How did MOD get Theorem's Altos password? Most probably they were
watching one of the X.25 gateways she used as she passed through
Tymnet on her way to Altos. Maybe the MOD boys sniffed her password en
route. Or maybe they were watching the Tymnet security officials who
were watching that gateway.
In the end it didn't matter how MOD got Theorem's password on Altos.
What mattered was that they changed her password. When Theorem
couldn't get into Altos she was beside herself. She felt like a junkie
going cold turkey. It was too much. And of course she couldn't reach
Par. Because he was on the run, she had to wait for him to call her.
In fact she couldn't reach any of her other friends on Altos to ask
for help. How was she going to find them? They were all hackers. They
chose handles so no-one would know their real names.
What Theorem didn't know was that, not only had she lost access to
Altos, but the MOD boys were using her account to hack the Altos
system. To the outside world it appeared as though she was doing it.
Theorem finally managed to get a third-hand message to Gandalf, a
well-known British hacker. She sought him out for two reasons. First,
he was a good friend and was therefore likely to help her out. Second,
Gandalf had root access on Altos, which meant he could give her a new
password or account.
Gandalf had established quite a reputation for himself in the computer
underground through the hacking group 8lgm--The Eight-Legged Groove
Machine, named after a British band. He and his friend, fellow British
hacker Pad, had the best four legs in the chorus line. They were a
world-class act, and certainly some of the best talent to come out of
the British hacking scene. But Gandalf and, to a lesser extent, Pad
had also developed a reputation for being arrogant. They rubbed some
of the American hackers the wrong way. Not that Pad and Gandalf seemed
to care. Their attitude was: We're good. We know it. Bugger off.
Gandalf disabled Theorem's account on Altos. He couldn't very well
just change the password and then send the new one through the
extended grapevine that Theorem had used to get a message through to
him. Clearly, someone had targeted her account specifically. No way
was he going to broadcast a new password for her account throughout
the underground. But the trouble was that neither Par nor Theorem knew
what Gandalf had done.
Meanwhile, Par called Theorem and got an earful. An angry Par vowed to
find out just who the hell had been messing with her account.
When the MOD boys told Par they were the culprits, he was a bit
surprised because he had always been on good terms with them. Par told
them how upset Theorem had been, how she gave him an earful. Then an
extraordinary thing happened. Corrupt, the toughest, baddest guy in
MOD, the black kid from the roughest part of New York, the hacker who
gave shit to everyone because he could, apologised to Par.
The MOD guys never apologised, even when they knew they were in the
wrong. Apologies never got anyone very far on a New York City street.
It was an attitude thing. `I'm sorry, man' from Corrupt was the
equivalent of a normal person licking the mud from the soles of your
Par was just signing off to try out the new password when Corrupt
`Yeah, and ah, Par, there's something you should know.'
`Yeah?' Par answered, anxious to go.
`I checked out her mail. There was some stuff in it.'
Theorem's letters? Stuff? `What kind of stuff?' he asked.
`Letters from Gandalf.'
`Friendly letters. Real friendly.'
arranged root access on Altos long ago if he'd really wanted it. But
he didn't. He didn't want it because it would mean he could access
Theorem's mail. And Par knew that if he could, he would. Theorem was
popular on Altos and, being the suspicious type, Par knew he would
probably take something perfectly innocent and read it the wrong way.
Then he would get in a fight with Theorem, and their time together was
too precious for that.
`Too friendly,' Corrupt went on. It must have been hard for him to
tell Par. Snagging a friend's girlfriend's password and breaking into
her account was one thing. There wasn't much wrong with that. But
breaking that kind of news, well, that was harsh. Especially since
Corrupt had worked with Gandalf in 8lgm.
`Thanks,' Par said finally. Then he took off.
When Par tried out the MOD password, it didn't work of course, because
Gandalf had disabled the account. But Par didn't know that. Finding
out that Theorem's account was disabled didn't bother him, but
discovering who disabled it for her didn't make Par all that happy.
Still, when he confronted Theorem, she denied that anything was going
on between her and Gandalf.
What could Par do? He could believe Theorem or he could doubt her.
Believing her was hard, but doubting her was painful. So he chose to
The incident made Theorem take a long look at Altos. It was doing bad
things to her life. In the days that she was locked out of the German
chat system, she had made the unpleasant discovery that she was
completely addicted. And she didn't like it at all. Staring at her
life with fresh eyes, she realised she had been ignoring her friends
and her life in Switzerland. What on earth was she doing, spending
every night in front of a computer screen?
So Theorem made a tough decision.
She decided to stop using Altos forever.
Bad things seemed to happen to The Parmaster around Thanksgiving.
In late November 1991, Par flew up from Virginia Beach to New York. An
acquaintance named Morty Rosenfeld, who hung out with the MOD hackers
a bit, had invited him to come for a visit. Par thought a trip to the
City would do him good.
Morty wasn't exactly Par's best friend, but he was all right. He had
been charged by the Feds a few months earlier for selling a password
to a credit record company which resulted in credit card fraud. Par
didn't go in for selling passwords, but to each his own. Morty wasn't
too bad in the right dose. He had a place on Coney Island, which was
hardly the Village in Manhattan, but close enough, and he had a
fold-out sofa bed. It beat sleeping on the floor somewhere else.
Par hung out with a Morty and a bunch of his friends, drinking and
goofing around on Morty's computer.
One morning, Par woke up with a vicious hangover. His stomach was
growling and there was nothing edible in the fridge, so he rang up and
ordered pork fried rice from a Chinese take-away. Then he threw on
some clothes and sat on the end of the sofa-bed, smoking a cigarette
while he waited. He didn't start smoking until he was nineteen, some
time late into his second year on the run. It calmed his nerves.
There was a knock at the front door. Par's stomach grumbled in
response. As he walked toward the front door, he thought Pork Fried
Rice, here I come. But when Par opened the front door, there was
something else waiting for him.
The Secret Service.
Two men. An older, distinguished gentleman standing on the left and a
young guy on the right. The young guy's eyes opened wide when he saw
Suddenly, the young guy pushed Par, and kept pushing him. Small, hard,
his footing, the agent shoved the hacker backward again until he
landed against the wall. The agent spun Par around so his face pressed
against the wall and pushed a gun into his kidney. Then he slammed
handcuffs on Par and started frisking him for weapons.
Par looked at Morty, now sobbing in the corner, and thought, You
narced on me.
Once Par was safely cuffed, the agents flashed their badges to him.
Then they took him outside, escorted him into a waiting car and drove
into Manhattan. They pulled up in front of the World Trade Center and
when Par got out the young agent swapped the cuffs so Par's hands were
in front of him.
As the agents escorted the handcuffed fugitive up a large escalator,
the corporate world stared at the trio. Business men and women in prim
navy suits, secretaries and office boys all watched wide-eyed from the
opposite escalator. And if the handcuffs weren't bad enough, the
younger Secret Service agent was wearing a nylon jacket with a
noticeable gun-shaped lump in the front pouch.
Why are these guys bringing me in the front entrance? Par kept
thinking. Surely there must be a backdoor, a car park back entrance.
Something not quite so public.
The view from any reasonably high floor of the World Trade Center is
breathtaking, but Par never got a chance to enjoy the vista. He was
hustled into a windowless room and handcuffed to a chair. The agents
moved in and out, sorting out paperwork details. They uncuffed him
briefly while they inked his fingers and rolled them across sheets of
paper. Then they made him give handwriting samples, first his right
hand then his left.
Par didn't mind being cuffed to the chair so much, but he found the
giant metal cage in the middle of the fingerprinting room deeply
disturbing. It reminded him of an animal cage, the kind used in old
in. And the third agent was far from friendly. He began playing the
bad cop, railing at Par, shouting at him, trying to unnerve him. But
no amount of yelling from the agent could rile Par as much as the
nature of the questions he asked.
The agent didn't ask a single question about Citibank. Instead, he
demanded to hear everything Par knew about TRW.
All Par's worst nightmares about the killer spy satellite, about
becoming the man who knew too much, rushed through his mind.
Par refused to answer. He just sat silently, staring at the agent.
Eventually, the older agent came back into the room, dragged the
pitbull agent away and took him outside for a whispered chat. After
that, the pitbull agent was all sweetness and light with Par. Not
another word about TRW.
Par wondered why a senior guy from the Secret Service would tell his
minion to clam up about the defence contractor? What was behind the
sudden silence? The abrupt shift alarmed Par almost as much as the
questions had in the first place.
The agent told Par he would be remanded in custody while awaiting
extradition to California. After all the paperwork had been completed,
they released him from the handcuffs and let him stand to stretch. Par
asked for a cigarette and one of the agents gave him one. Then a
couple of other agents--junior guys--came in.
The junior agents were very friendly. One of them even shook Par's
hand and introduced himself. They knew all about the hacker. They knew
his voice from outgoing messages on voicemail boxes he had created for
himself. They knew what he looked like from his California police
file, and maybe even surveillance photos. They knew his personality
from telephone bridge conversations which had been recorded and from
the details of his Secret Service file. Perhaps they had even tracked
him around the country, following a trail of clues left in his
flightpath. Whatever research they had done, one thing was clear.
These agents felt like they knew him intimately--Par the person, not
just Par the hacker.
It was a strange sensation. These guys Par had never met before
chatted with him about the latest Michael Jackson video as if he was a
neighbour or friend just returned from out of town. Then they took him
further uptown, to a police station, for more extradition paperwork.
This place was no World Trade Center deluxe office. Par stared at the
peeling grey paint in the ancient room, and then watched officers
typing out reports using the two-finger hunt-and-peck method on
electric typewriters--not a computer in sight. The officers didn't
cuff Par to the desk. Par was in the heart of a police station and
there was no way he was going anywhere.
While the officer handling Par was away from his desk for ten minutes,
Par felt bored. So he began flipping through the folders with
information on other cases on the officer's desk. They were heavy duty
fraud cases--mafia and drug-money laundering--cases which carried
reference to FBI involvement. These people looked hairy.
That day, Par had a quick appearance in court, just long enough to be
given protective custody in the Manhattan detention complex known as
the Tombs while he waited for the authorities from California to come
and pick him up.
Par spent almost a week in the Tombs. By day three, he was climbing
the walls. It was like being buried alive.
During that week, Par had almost no contact with other human beings--a
terrible punishment for someone with so much need for a continual flow
of new information. He never left his cell. His jailer slid trays of
food into his cell and took them away.
On day six, Par went nuts. He threw a fit, began screaming and banging
on the door. He yelled at the guard. Told him none too nicely that he
wanted to `get the fuck outta here'. The guard said he would see if he
could get Par transferred to Rikers Island, New York's notorious jail.
Par didn't care if he was transferred to the moon, as long as he got
out of solitary confinement.
Except for the serial killer, the north infirmary at Rikers Island was
a considerable improvement on the Tombs. Par was only locked in his
cell at night. During the day he was free to roam inside the infirmary
area with other prisoners. Some of them were there because the
authorities didn't want to put them in with the hardened criminals,
and some of them were there because they were probably criminally
Colombian drug lord. A chop-shop ringleader, who collected more than
300 stolen cars, chopped them up, reassembled them as new and then
sold them off. A man who killed a homosexual for coming onto him.
`Faggot Killer', as he was known inside, hadn't meant to kill anyone:
things had gotten a little out of hand; next thing he knew, he was
facing ten to twelve on a murder rap.
Par wasn't wild about the idea of hanging out with a murderer, but he
was nervous about what could happened to a young man in jail. Forging
a friendship with Faggot Killer would send the right message. Besides,
the guy seemed to be OK. Well, as long as you didn't look at him the
On his first day, Par also met Kentucky, a wild-eyed man who
introduced himself by thrusting a crumpled newspaper article into the
hacker's hand and saying, `That's me'. The article, titled `Voices
Told Him to Kill', described how police had apprehended a serial
killer believed to be responsible for a dozen murders, maybe more.
During his last murder, Kentucky told Par he had killed a woman--and
then written the names of the aliens who had commanded him to do it on
the walls of her apartment in her blood.
The jewellery heister tried to warn Par to stay away from Kentucky,
who continued to liaise with the aliens on a regular basis. But it was
too late. Kentucky decided that he didn't like the young hacker. He
started shouting at Par, picking a fight. Par stood there, stunned and
confused. How should he deal with an aggravated serial killer? And
what the hell was he doing in jail with a serial killer raving at him
anyway? It was all too much.
The jewellery heister rushed over to Kentucky and tried to calm him
down, speaking in soothing tones. Kentucky glowered at Par, but he
A few days into his stay at Rikers, Faggot Killer invited Par to join
in a game of Dungeons and Dragons. It beat watching TV talk shows all
day, so Par agreed. He sat down at the metal picnic table where Faggot
Killer had laid out the board.
So it was that Par, the twenty-year-old computer hacker from
California, the X.25 network whiz kid, came to play Dungeons and
Dragons with a jewellery thief, a homophobic murderer and a mad serial
killer in Rikers Island. Par found himself marvelling at the
surrealism of the situation.
Kentucky threw himself into the game. He seemed to get off on killing
`I'll take my halberd,' Kentucky began with a smile, `and I stab this
goblin.' The next player began to make his move, but Kentucky
interrupted. `I'm not done,' he said slowly, as a demonic grin spread
across his face. `And I slice it. And cut it. It bleeds everywhere.'
Kentucky's face tensed with pleasure.
The other three players shifted uncomfortably in their seats. Par
looked at Faggot Killer with nervous eyes.
`And I thrust a knife into its heart,' Kentucky continued, the volume
of his voice rising with excitement. `Blood, blood, everywhere blood.
And I take the knife and hack him. And I hack and hack and hack.'
Kentucky jumped up from the table and began shouting, thrusting one
arm downward through the air with an imaginary dagger, `And I hack and
I hack and I hack!'
Then Kentucky went suddenly still. Everyone at the table froze. No-one
dared move for fear of driving him over the edge. Par's stomach had
jumped into his throat. He tried to gauge how many seconds it would
take to extricate himself from the picnic table and make a break for
the far side of the room.
In a daze, Kentucky walked away from the table, leaned his forehead
against the wall and began mumbling quietly. The jewellery heister
slowly followed and spoke to him briefly in hushed tones before
returning to the table.
One of the guards had heard the ruckus and came up to the table.
`Is that guy OK?' he asked the jewellery heister while pointing to
Not even if you used that term loosely, Par thought.
`Leave him alone,' the heister told the guard. `He's talking to the
`Right.' The guard turned around and left.
Every day, a nurse brought around special medicine for Kentucky. In
fact, Kentucky was zonked out most of the time on a cup of horrible,
smelly liquid. Sometimes, though, Kentucky secreted his medicine away
and traded it with another prisoner who wanted to get zonked out for a
day or so.
Those were bad days, the days when Kentucky had sold his medication.
It was on one of those days that he tried to kill Par.
Par sat on a metal bench, talking to other prisoners, when suddenly he
felt an arm wrap around his neck. He tried to turn around, but
`Here. I'll show you how I killed this one guy,' Kentucky whispered to
against Par's Adam's apple. It was a vice-like grip.
`Yeah. Like this. I did it like this,' Kentucky said as he tensed his
muscle and pulled backward.
`No! Really, you don't need to. It's OK,' Par gasped. No air. His arms
flailing in front of him.
I'm done for, Par thought. My life is over. Hacker Murdered by Serial
Killer in Rikers Island. `Aliens Told Me to Do It.'
The omnipresent jewellery heister came up to Kentucky and started
cooing in his ear to let Par go. Then, just when Par thought he was
about to pass out, the jewellery heister pulled Kentucky off him.
Par reminded himself to always sit with his back against the wall.
Finally, after almost a month behind bars, Par was informed that an
officer from the Monterey County sheriff's office was coming to take
him back to California. Par had agreed to be extradited to California
after seeing the inside of New York's jails. Dealing with the federal
prosecutor in New York had also helped make up his mind.