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Excerpt: Shoot the Moon (2016)



The shooting had happened three days earlier in Springtown, Kansas—an unarmed young black man shot dead by local police. For three days and nights now protests had spread throughout the country, beginning with that small, mostly black community with the mostly white police force.

In Berkeley, California, on this hot August night, blacks and whites joined arms for the march down Telegraph Avenue. Like previous nights, they carried lighted candles. And like previous nights, they sang hymns. The destination, as before, was the heart of the UC-Berkeley campus that had witnessed similar protests for many decades. The anti-war and free-speech movements of the sixties and seventies hadn’t been as peaceful as these, but these were no less passionate.

Inside the Upper Grounds Coffee Shop on Telegraph Avenue, two male graduate students, raptly engaged with the lighted screens of their laptops, sat at a small table at the front window. Periodically, one of the two—the tall, lanky one with the scruffy reddish beard and long, stringy dark-blond hair—would look up and utter a few words excitedly to the other. His more stoic partner—shorter, darker, with neatly trimmed black hair and beard—would nod and utter a word or two in response.

But the blondish young man, Dexter Carp, was deep in thought, thoughts far from the computer code he was developing.

One more step, my friend, and I’m taking you down, he thought, with a glance at the preoccupied dark face across from him.

It had taken months of preparation, followed by weeks of undercover activity. But now the special agent, known to his fellow UC-Berkeley students as “Dexter Carp,” had found the hacker that had been trolling through secret FBI files.

As anticipated, Jamal had been cool to him. Hell, all hackers are basically anti-social, introverted assholes, Carp reminded himself. Jamal’s not the first that I’ve taken down. He allowed a tiny smile. I’ve figured out how to get inside their heads. Let ’em know you’re a bigger, badder, hacker!

Carp could do that—with help from the FBI techies back in Quantico. Carp let his thoughts return to the coding problem on his laptop. One more step! he repeated. Neither of these men at the front window paid attention to the now familiar parade of protesters outside. That is, not until the shouting began.

“What the hell?” Carp jerked his head toward the street. His dark-haired companion looked up. “Looks like the counter-protestors have arrived.” His words coincided with the sight of a number of bystanders abruptly rushing the front line of marchers. Startled marchers refused to engage the insurgents—a dozen burly, white toughs. Bodies flew to all sides, with candles strewn far and wide. A few of the jostled marchers were tossed onto the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop.

Carp slapped his laptop shut. “This is getting ugly, Jamal,” he said, pushing his chair back and starting to rise. “Relax, Dexter,” said Jamal, motioning him to sit back down. “Soon as those rednecks realize no one’s fighting back, they’ll back off.”

Just then a shot rang out, followed instantly by the sound of shattering glass. One of the two men ducked instinctively. Dexter Carp sat motionless for a few moments, staring ahead blankly. Then, ever so slowly, his chin dropped and his head toppled forward, crashing into the laptop. His partner looked up without moving his head. A few inches from his face, spread across the laptop, was Carp’s stringy, blood-matted hair. Also spreading across the laptop was a pool of blood oozing from Carp’s mouth and the gaping hole in the side of his head. Dexter Carp would never write another line of code.

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