Chapter 8 The Dark Tower

“The only queer people are those who don’t love anybody.”
― Rita Mae Brown

Stephen King wrote about a Dark Tower in New York in book four, Wizard and Glass. Number two Dag Hammarskjold Plaza was built over the Rose to protect it. But there is a real tower in Manhattan called Titanponte and it is downtown at 33 Thomas Avenue, which is about a mile from my loft.

thedarktowerWe were walking over to Think Coffee on Mercer to use their WIFI and Michael brought up the book. The story had invaded his dreams; he woke from a nightmare hollering about Henry Raymond Glass.

“I don’t think he’s in the story, Mickey.” New York City was grey and dirty as usual. Stank from the subway threatened to knock me down.

He said, “Yeah, I know. He isn’t a normal character. But I recognized the name, I just can’t remember where.”

I told him the real Dark Tower was an NSA building run by AT&T. Acronyms. When I was a kid there was a homeless guy in our neighborhood, Badger, who used to make up acronyms for us kids to use in our spy games. I hadn’t thought about him in years. I always pictured myself as James Bond, as a girl.

Badger told me that was good, that I’d be in cognito since most people are looking for a tall man with a British accent. I had to look it up; I was such a poser. Soon after that he began buying me milkshakes at McDonalds. He always sat next to me in the booth. I never thought about it at the time, but he had plenty of money to buy me drinks and snacks. It seems strange that he made out like he was homeless. Thinking back on it, I doubt he was.

I bit Badger’s earlobe off when he put his hand down the front of my jeans. Then I braced my back against the wall and shoved his skinny ass onto the floor with both of my Chuck Taylors. He was a dipshit perv, but he created cool names, I still remember the one he made for my secret spy organization: S.H.O.C.K. Secret holographic organ collection kids. Yeah, looking back on it, the guy was a little wacked; He must have had a thing for pre-pubescent pussy. I told him that if he touched me again I would find where he slept and cut his balls off. I carried a folding knife, which wasn’t very long, but it was sharp, and I used it to make my point, pun intended, by flashing it across my palm and showing him the blood running down my arm.

I only saw him once again, coming toward me on the sidewalk. He crossed the street before reaching me. I guess I scared him with all that bullshit. Back then I was a lot of talk. But I didn’t question my power, and neither did anyone else. I was fierce.

I have never told anyone about that.

Michael interrupted my thoughts. “Do you think they have something to do with each other? Like the real Dark Tower, Titanponte, is a reflection of the tower in Mid-World? That maybe, Roland is somewhere in our world, fighting the evil that threatens to eat us alive?”

“You’re a nitwit, do you know that? Ok, I’ll play along, who’s Henry Raymond Glass then.” There are a few reasons I keep Mickey around. In addition to his sensitivity and uncut sexual prowess, his brain works in a special way. I like to think of him as half in half out. He’s half in this world with the rest of the pathetic humans and half out of it, into some other, more peaceful, mindful world; that inner world where imagination rules. Michael has a dreamer’s spirit, he can see doors where most see walls. He knew who Mr. Glass was, he just didn’t realize it yet.

Michael was like a pit-bull with a shank bone when a problem found its way into his brain. I knew he was on to something. Interrupting him with a reality check just made him dig for it; and he did. While I transferred the ACH files and covered our tracks, I got a call from Mari.

“Theodora, I must see you.”

“What’s the matter? My line is encrypted, we can talk.”

“Where are you, we need to meet.”

I gave her the address of the Starbucks down the street. We didn’t need to be causing a scene at Think. I liked that place, I want to come back. On the way down the block, Michael said, “I don’t know how they are related, but they are. Henry Glass and King’s book are connected. One leads to the other. My dream left no mistake about that.”


“I remembered why I woke up.”

We walked a few steps. I almost fell for it and asked him why, but at that point Michael was just playing with me. He smiled and waited before continuing. “A man I never saw before shoved a hard cover book into my hands and pushed me backward into an elevator shaft, I fell and screamed. The book was The Dark Tower, and the dude’s name was Glass. That’s too much coincidence even for me.”

“What did he look like?”

“Black shaggy hair, wide lapelled suit. And glasses, gold wire rims.”

We ordered coffee and sat in the comfy chairs., Mari came in a few minutes later with a gust of frigid wind – a storm was blowing in. We hugged and I gave her my coffee.

“What the fuck, girl?”

“The escort service has been giving me fits since you beat the shit out of my client the other night. He was some sort of big wig. Now he claims that I set him up to rob him. The service fired me. I got thrown out of my apartment, Theo. I have nowhere to go. And someone is following me.”

This is why I avoid relationships with people. When I get close, someone always gets hurt. I said, “You can stay at my place. I have plenty of room.”

“I’ll pay you back. I’ll wait tables if I have to.”

“Bullshit. This ain’t about money, sister. Don’t sweat it. Hey, this is Michael. Michael, Mari. I think I mentioned her.” They shook hands. But Mari was distracted. She kept looking at the door.

Michael said, “Do you need to eat? You look frozen, maybe a warm cup of soup?”

Mickey has a good heart, though all the time he was talking to her he was glancing at her breasts. I know, I was thinking the same thing; Mari is beautiful. But he was right, the coffee helped the color return to her face, but her lips still looked a little blue. We got a cab back to my place. Mari could soak in my oversized tub and Mickey and I could talk a little more about his strange nightmare.

I needed to check on this asshole client. I thought after I broke his nose and tased his ass he would be smart enough to back off. It’s always the dumb, pencil dicks that cause the most hassle. Small penis, big bank account. I would have to do something about that.

While Mari soaked, I got a notification from the server we had hacked to insert the ACH files. My bot worked, though I never doubted it would. When they verified the size of the file to make sure it hadn’t been altered, which of course it had, there was an automatic routine that I planted to lie to them and cover our addition. Once checked, my program would delete itself. At midnight all sorts of money would move all over the world, and not only the paltry sums that I showed Mickey. My project was about to initiate. I am sure Mr. Carver wouldn’t see this one coming. Fuck him.


Chapter 7 Financial Alchemy

“And you’re working for no one but me”
–George Harrison, Taxman

“Let me tell you something about money, Mickey. It ain’t real. It doesn’t even exist. If you know this, you can have as much of it as you want.”

achWe were making breakfast. I have a flat top griddle on my stove and I take every opportunity to use it; I love that thing. We were making sausage and pancakes. Jack Cade wasn’t much of a father, but he taught me to cook – and we made most everything from scratch since we were usually broke.

“That’s bullshit,” Michael said, “you wouldn’t have your privilege if you didn’t have money. Money is power, kiddo. And you know it.”

Michael thinks I inherited my wealth. I have never told him that I use the electronic banking system to syphon money. He isn’t ready to graduate to full-blown pirate. He thinks we are just playing. I allow it, but someday soon I will raise the curtain. For now, I am laying a broad foundation, showing him a little here and a little there.

He was manning the spatula, the ham-handed fool. I said, “See the little holes on the pancakes, Mickey? That means it’s time to flip those suckers.” He dropped one half on, half off the griddle.

“Oh, sorry. I’ll clean it up.” He went in search of paper towels.

I flipped the others, checked the sausage, and salvaged the flopped one, wiping the stainless around the stovetop with a rag I keep on the warming shelf. One of Jack’s frequent odd jobs was line-cook in a busy lunch joint. He taught me to multitask on an eight burner. “Don’t hassle over it,” I called, “I got ‘em.” Michael was rooting around in the pantry.

I checked the toast in the salamander and said, “What the hell are you doing in there?”

He returned with an empty towel tube and a porcelain cream pitcher in the shape of a dairy cow. “This is cute, where’d you get it?”

I said, “Be careful with that, it’s rare.” I lied about finding it in a curiosity shop in Seattle. It was actually one of the few items that Jack gave me. I bet he found it in someone’s garbage or stole it. I said, “I don’t use it; it’s too fragile. Put it back, ‘k?”

We ate and lounged. Snow drifted by the uncurtained industrial windows near the kitchen table. The city sky looked like a dirty steel pot; the snow would probably turn to sleet in a few minutes: fucking New York winters. I poured more coffee. Michael read on his laptop. I said, “Here, give me that, have you ever heard of an ACH file?”

He folded the last pancake, poured syrup on it, and stuffed it in his mouth. Licking the excess from his fingers, he spoke around the mouthful, “Nope.”

“ACH stands for Automated Clearing House.” I opened a text file from one of my cloud drives and spun the screen toward him. “It’s just a text file.” I pointed at a line. “The funds come from here, and flow there. This is the amount, and this is the bank. The rest is a description. Files like this move all the money in the world.”

He was chewing. “Hmmm.”

I said, “You have to be a bank to upload one– but it’s easy to hack in and insert extra lines into an existing file. They upload them every night and download return files in the morning. That’s it. That’s all money is. Numbers in a text file.”

He wiped his mouth and finished the last drips of his coffee, tipping the mug over his opened mouth and smacking his lips. Michael had some peculiar, yet endearing habits. He said, “Show me.”

I lifted my sweatshirt and stuck out my tongue.

“Very nice,” he said, “but that’s not what I mean. Yeah, no, do something. Show me how money moves. For real.”

“Ok smart-ass. But I have to set things up, and it’s Sunday, so we have to wait. If you really want to see an ACH hack in action, we’ll do it Thursday when the most deposits are made. Files drop at midnight; Friday morning is the best time to withdraw funds.” He was standing behind me now with his hand inside my sweatshirt, massaging my left tit. I leaned my head back against him.

“So,” he said, “We can do it later? Good. That leaves this morning free.”

Michael is such a horn dog. That’s part of the reason I keep him around.


Making an ACH file is cake. As I told Michael, it’s just a simple processor file, like the ones the SUXNET virus infiltrated to take control of Iranian centrifuges. As long as you give the processor proper instructions, money moves. If there are insufficient funds the transaction comes back in a return file.

ACH transfers are internal bank to bank transactions, and normally banks are the only ones who use them. But banks give FedWire network access to certain non-banks. They call themselves financial services; collection agencies, check recovery firms, and the like. I have access to everyone, but these companies are easier to hack than a bank. Unfortunately, stealing from a bank is a one shot deal; you can never do it the same way again. I’d been planning a project for months that I would initiate on Thursday. Michael and I would craft a file to move small amounts from several sources. These transfers have to be masked through many accounts to avoid detection long enough cover erase our tracks. I’d to show Michael a map of the transfers, he likes graphics. ACH hacking is more art than science; it’s a slight of hand.

I told him I was busy until Thursday so I’d have enough time to get everything ready. The file we made would syphon off a few thousand micro-amounts and aggregate them in forty other accounts around the world. No one would notice, and even if they did, unauthorized debits are always refunded. The complexity makes them impossible to trace.

From there I’d shuffle them around over a couple days. Bellagio called it crossing. Eventually they will be posted in an off-shore account and withdrawn. We’d end up with ten thousand or so, but Michael would be suitably impressed. I would put his transactions my insert for the check recovery company and his tests would upload at the same time as my attack. I never burn a bridge without making it worth my while.

My project will involve much larger sums and have bigger consequences. It makes me wet just thinking about it.