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Turtles All the Way Down(15)
Author: John Green

“Annnnddd it’s happening. Okay. Hold on. Hold on. Just waiting for the zip to download, yes, and opening, and . . . oh, hell yes.” Daisy finally looked up at me and smiled. Her front teeth were a little crooked, turning toward each other, and she was self-conscious about it, so she rarely smiled all the way. But now I could even see her gums. “Can I do the thing, like, at the end of Scooby-Doo and tell you how I did it?”

I nodded.

“So the first article about Pickett’s disappearance refers to a police report obtained by the Indianapolis Star. That story was written by Sandra Oliveros, with additional reporting by this dude Adam Bitterley, which is a bummer of a last name, but anyway, he’s clearly the junior guy on the story, and a quick google shows him to be a recent IU grad.

“So I made up an email address that looks almost exactly like Sandra Oliveros’s and emailed Bitterley an order to send me a copy of the police report. And he replied, like, ‘I can’t; I don’t have it on my home computer,’ so I told him to go the hell into the office and email it to me, and he was like, ‘It’s Friday night,’ and I was, like, ‘I know it’s Friday night, but the news doesn’t stop breaking on the weekend; do your job, or I’ll find someone else who will do it.’ And then he went to the fucking office and emailed me scans of the fucking police report.”

“Jesus.”

“Welcome to the future, Holmesy. It’s not about hacking computers anymore; it’s about hacking human souls. The file is in your email.” Sometimes I wondered if Daisy was my friend only because she needed a witness.

As the file downloaded, I glanced away from my screen, through the slits of the blinds to the parking lot outside. A streetlight was shining right at us, which made everything around it look pitch-black.

I was trying to shake off a thought, but as I opened the police report and began scanning through it, the thought grew.

“What?” Daisy asked.

“Nothing,” I said, and tried again to swallow the thought. But I couldn’t. “Just, won’t he get in trouble? Like, when he goes into work on Monday, won’t he ask his boss why she needed that file, and then won’t she be, like, ‘What file,’ and then won’t he get in trouble? Like, he could get fired.”

Daisy just rolled her eyes, but I was in the spiral now, and I started to worry that Mr. Bitterley would figure out how to track down Daisy, that he would have her arrested, and maybe me, too, since I was probably an accomplice. We were just playing a silly game, but people go to prison all the time for lesser crimes. I imagined a news story—girl hackers obsessed with billionaire boy.

“He’ll find us,” I said after a while.

“Who?” she asked.

“The guy,” I said. “Bitterley.”

“No, he won’t; I’m on public Wi-Fi in an Applebee’s using an IP address that locates me in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. And if he does find me, I’ll say you had no idea what I was doing, and I’ll go to prison for you, and in thanks for my refusal to snitch, you’ll get my face tattooed on your bicep. It’ll be great.”

“Daisy, be serious.”

“I am being serious. Your skinny little bicep needs a tattoo of my face. Also, he’s not going to get fired. He’s not going to find us. At most, he will learn an important lesson about phishing in a way that’s minimally harmful to his life and the company he works for. Calm down, all right? I gotta get back to this very important argument I’m having with a stranger on the internet about whether Chewbacca is a person.”

Holly came by with the check, an unsubtle reminder that we’d overstayed our welcome. I put down the debit card Mom had given me—Daisy never had any money and my mom let me charge twenty-five dollars a week as long as I kept straight As. Beneath the table, I rubbed my thumb against the callus of my finger. I told myself that Daisy was probably right, that everything would probably be fine. Probably.

Daisy didn’t look up from her phone, but said, “Seriously, Holmesy. I won’t let anything happen. I promise.”

“You can’t control it, that’s the thing,” I said. “Life is not something you wield, you know?”

“Hell yes, it is,” she mumbled, still sunk into her phone. “Ugh, God, now this guy is saying I write bestiality.”

“Wait, what?”

“Because in my fic, Chewbacca and Rey were in love. He’s saying it is—and I am quoting—‘criminal’ because it’s interspecies romance. Not sex, even—I keep it rated Teen for the kids out there—just love.”

“But Chewbacca isn’t human,” I said.

“It’s not a question of whether Chewie was human, Holmesy; it’s a question of whether he was a person.” She was almost shouting. She took Star Wars stuff quite seriously. “And he was obviously a person. Like, what even makes you a person? He had a body and a soul and feelings, and he spoke a language, and he was an adult, and if he and Rey were in hot, hairy, communicative love, then let’s just thank God that two consenting, sentient adults found each other in a dark and broken galaxy.”

So often, nothing could deliver me from fear, but then sometimes, just listening to Daisy did the trick. She’d straightened something inside me, and I no longer felt like I was in a whirlpool or walking an ever-tightening spiral. I didn’t need similes. I was located in my self again. “So he’s a person because he’s sentient?”

“Nobody complains about male humans hooking up with female Twi’leks! Because of course men can choose whatever they want to bone. But a human woman falling in love with a Wookiee, God forbid. I mean, I know I’m just feeding the trolls here, Holmesy, but I can’t stand for it.”

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