A Darker Horse

The speaker crackles and a voice says, “Hello Finn. Apologies for the circumstances. You understand how privacy is paramount. Your past assignments have shown you have the skill to erase digital histories and now I need you to erase some… for me. This job will require more… delicacy. I’m prepared to triple your rate.”

Finn smiles. “I’m all yours.”

Big Eddie finishes a call with his wife and waves Henry in. “Everything changes when you have kids. So… A very private individual we’ve worked with before asked for you. Said you were discreet.”

“I never…”

Eddie gives an address and another for the dropoff point.

“Don’t write it down. Remember it. They’re paranoid; I don’t care. It’s not my job to care. In fact, it’s my job to not care. Don’t leave the neighborhood until it’s done. They have your pager.”

Finn is done with the first half of the job and calls the pager.

Within half an hour, Henry knocks on the door. “Here for a pickup.”

Finn looks through the peephole and asks for ID. Henry shows his license and she opens.

“Do you want to come in? I just made some iced tea; my grandmother’s recipe.”

Henry drains his glass and sets it on a coaster. “Thanks for the tea. Do you have the package?”

Finn finds the envelope and checks inside to make sure it has the note inside. “So… who is this guy?”

“No clue.” Henry gives a little wave as he trots down the steps. Finn closes the door and decides to investigate Henry Malone.

Henry happily jogs the few blocks to the store, walks to the counter, and shows the envelope to the guy at the register. The man nods and reaches out for the envelope. “Back in two.”


“Be back in two hours. Pickup for you then.”

Finn pores through documents online and learns of Big Eddie, how he once helped Henry with an arrest, how Eddie co-signed the mortgage on Henry’s mother’s house.

There’s a knock on the door

“Hey. Sorry. I know it’s late, but I didn’t know how else to get a hold of you. They’re going to get back with a message in a couple hours, and trust me, they don’t like people to sit on it until a day later”

He turned to leave and she called after him. “Well, where are you going now?”

Henry paused.

“You may as well snooze on the couch.”

He pulled himself back up. “I could grab some food. Call it in and I’ll pick it up. What do you want?”

Finn smiled. “Pizza?”

Two hours later Henry returns with the pizza and the envelope with the man’s reply.

Finn reads the reply and Henry asks what it says.

“In my last note I said I was near the end of erasing the virtual information. But that I can’t do anything about paper records. He wrote back that I erased things online but he would take care of erasing everything else.”

Henry squints his eyes. “What is it you do for him?”

She tears up the paper and flushes it. “I ‘depresent’ people. A lot of people. A LOT of people, have done things online that could hurt them if people found out. Teachers who want me to remove every photo of them at a party’; businessmen up for promotion who want all their comments taken down from… let’s say, ‘naughty’ websites. This particular customer seems to have been a bit naughtier than most.”

While Henry eats nearly the entire pizza, Finn researches Big Eddie.

“Did you know a guy named ‘Filippe Hartz?’ or ‘Danny Boyd?'”

Henry swallows. “Yeah. Though I haven’t seen them in a while.”

“They’re dead.”


“They were running tripped packages, poisoning anyone who opened them. Those two got too curious.”

“Who sent them?”

“I have a guess.”

“Eddie said I had a reputation for being discreet.”

“It saved your life.”

Finn finishes and writes a reply and Henry runs it to the store.

Henry meets Carl, a runner with a different company, coming out of the corner store.

“Hey Carl, what’ve you got there?”

“Seriously? I can’t talk about that.”

Henry leans in. “It’s that one rich guy though, right? The only one who doesn’t address the envelopes.”

Carl chuckles. “I know a job for him is coming because I get an advance bonus of $50. He tries to be anonymous and that just makes him stand out even more.”

Henry laughs. “Advance bonus? I should work for you guys!”

Henry hangs back and follows Carl to an apartment nearby and notices shadows moving in the first floor window.

Henry texts the address to Finn. While he returns to her place, she checks online and sees the apartment belongs to a hacker she’s met online before, someone named ‘Siphon’.

“He’s good, a very secure system. But look; he’s bragging on a forum that he was hired to double-check the work of another hacker.”

“That must be you!”

“The mystery man wants to know that he’s getting what he’s paid for.”

Henry naps on the couch while Finn works, uneasy and extra careful, knowing that someone is watching over her shoulder.

Finn is disturbed by the text and images she’s finding.

She finally recognizes the face in the photos, a politician named John Whitney, who is running for Congress this year.

Finn feels sick about what she’s seen, but is finally done. Henry runs a final message.

Finn wonders what Siphon thought of her work and looks for him online. But there’s no trace of him now.

Henry runs to Siphon’s apartment but it’s empty. He runs past the corner store but it’s closed. He then heads to Eddie’s and asks about Carl.

“Didn’t you hear? Carl’s missing. His mom called the police.”

Henry runs to Finn’s apartment but stops short when he sees two men loitering by the front door. He sneaks around to the back, climbs through a window into the laundry room, and runs up the stairwell.

Henry tells Finn the news and says, “We’ve got to go. Now.”

Finn grabs her laptop and phone and they leave the lights on. They take the elevator to the basement and leave through the cellar door to the alley.

Finn is breathless by the time they reach Henry’s. They see a suspicious man in the lobby and find an all-night cafe where Finn can get online.

Henry and Finn make it to Big Eddie’s office and show him the evidence. He hides them and they tell him everything. He makes some calls and Finn goes online.

“Can you reverse the changes you made?”

“No. But I can do worse than that.”

Finn posts photos and creates transcripts using the politician’s real name and face, recreates online personas.

Within hours, the media goes crazy. By mid-morning, John Whitney announces he will not be seeking office.

Eddie hands Henry $1,500. “You two ought to leave town for a while.”

Finn reaches over and tugs Henry’s sleeve. “I’ve always wanted to go to Alaska.”