“I can’t take you all the way, but I’ll be able to point them out to you,” Bill explained and slapped the sides of his chair.
Bill led me out a backdoor and into an overgrown backyard of pale grass decorated with the net-less frame of a soccer goal and a net-less and backboard-less basketball hoop.
Bill pointed out to a tight little trail at the back of the yard which snaked out into the thick, dark woods. I could see the outline of a couple little buildings tucked between the trees out there.
“Two buildings out there are the labs. Don’t think anyone is out there yet,” Bill said and dug into a fanny pack until he produced a ring of keys. “I’d walk you out there myself, but for obvious reasons that’s a no go, so just unlock it yourself, bring the keys back when you’re done.”
Bill handed me the keys.
The walk to the computer labs reminded me of something out of a dream. Two brick buildings with metal slanted roofs, the little domiciles looked wholly out of place in the old growth Tennessee woods, especially knowing they rested behind a church which looked on the verge of collapse. Honestly, the labs looked like the newest buildings in the entire sleepy, little hometown other than the Walgreen’s.
I wasn’t sure if I just felt a cold wind or had spooked myself when I walked up to the front door of one of the labs and unlocked it. I opened up the door and turned around, locked eyes with Bill for a moment before he wheeled himself back into the church.
A flick of a light switch illuminated a tight little room lined with cheap desks topped with 90s-era desktop computers. I approached the nearest desktop, took a seat in an office chair I hoped wasn’t full of spiders and fired the thing up. Laughed to myself when I saw the ancient Windows 98 loading screen flash in front of me.
I wasted no time once the computer loaded. For all I knew, Crumpled Twenty Dollar Bill was back in the church calling up headquarters and asking if I was legit.
Thankfully an awful client who spied on the instant messaging of their employees had educated me on my best shot of finding out anything of worth I might be able to track down about Chase on the computers. If you used AOL to chat, which since Chase was in the late-90s, I’m sure he was, all the administrator of the computer or network had to do was check a box which automatically saved all chats in a log file. If Crave Church had, and no one had deleted them, the computers Chase chatted on would have his chat logs saved on them.
Success came quicker than I thought. The admin had been storing chat messages in a conveniently year-labeled folder going all the way back to 1998. I jammed in my jump drive and collected the 1998 and 1999 folders. The three other computers in the room would prove equally fruitful.
I couldn’t have gotten out of there fast enough once I loaded up my jump drives. It was now a race to get back to my dad’s house to start combing through the old logs to see if I could find anything fruitful. I walked around the side of the church, hoping to avoid Bill.
I was just about to the sidewalk when I heard Bill’s voice sound out from the front of the church.
I turned and saw Bill on the perch of the front doorway.
“You leave the keys out back there?”
Damn’t. The keys.
“Oh yeah,” I answered and ran up the stairs until I reunited with Bill. Handed him the keys.
I started back down the walkway to the street, but Bill’s voice stopped me.
“I thought we used WestTenn for our IT.”
I turned around again. Saw Bill scowling at me.
“Uh, yeah, you do, but they don’t handle software. They contracted us out.”
I scurried away as soon as I finished, got in my rental car and drove away.