05 February 2014
Call of the Wicked
by Robert Lopresti
I have a friend who has a mother, a wonderful lady we will call Kate. She is a smart woman who, at a time when many people were retired, was still doing biomedical research. That kind of smart.
But time has passed and she is retired now, and living in a senoir home, what is known as an independent living center. And one day not too long ago she got a phone call from someone who said he was calling from Windows. He explained that they had found that her computer was about to crash but he could fix it if she gave him control.
Well, you know what happened next. She had to call someone from the office to yank the plug out of the wall to turn the computer off, and then she had to buy a new computer. (According to the guy who looked at her machine, if you suffer this type of hack, the trick is to get someone to fix it before you log on again. After that, its too late.)
I won't go through the misery that followed: closing bank accounts, changing passwords, destroying credit cards. Because that is all minor inconvenience, as tedious and infuriating as it is.
The real damage was done inside Kate's head. Falling for that trick damaged her self-confidence and self-image, because she knew she would not have done so a few years before. And that is the true, soul-destroying evil accomplished by these morally-bankrupt thugs who deliberately aim their scams at seniors.
For some reason, this makes me think of Dick Francis. One of the things I like best about his work is that his characters never lost their shock over bad guys doing bad things. While the heroes of Chandler get cynical and see the glass as not only mostly empty but slightly moldy, Francis's men stay outraged and furious. That doesn't belong to you. Put it back!
From time to time scholars have pondered why so many people are fascinated by crime fiction. Part of the answer, I think, is that we all deal with villains and the mysteries give us a pain-free way to reflect on them. And, in fiction, at least, we can sometimes defeat them.
Until next time, watch out for the bad guys.