"The dives are horrible and obvious."
"Cait, you promised not to interfere."
"If you're asking if he's a regular ref, I don't know."
"I'm putting in an official protest of this game. If another of my girls gets hurt, we're leaving."
Basketball Night in Canada
Chapter 3 - Clock's Ticking
Caitlin watched as Heidi and her friend had a whispered conversation. Heidi stepped forward first. "Fine. We'll help. For the sake of our team, not yours."
"Help is help." Caitlin turned to the friend. "I need a name. Unless you want us to call you 'Heidi's Friend' all night."
"Tanya." Heidi's friend held out her hand.
Caitlin shook Tanya's hand. "Good. I'm Caitlin, these are Laura and Autumn. Laura, what did you find out?"
"I got the ref's name, the scorer's name, coaches names." Laura passed a sheet of paper over to Caitlin. "None of the names ring a bell."
"Good." Caitlin took a quick look at the piece of paper then handed it to Autumn. "Take this and Tanya. Go find out as much as you can about the ref."
Autumn looked over the names. "It'd be easier with a proper computer, Caitlin."
Tanya glanced at Heidi. "I have access to the computer labs. I can take you there."
"Lead on." Autumn followed Tanya down the hall and into the stairwell.
Caitlin turned back to Laura. "How are your lockpicking skills?"
Heidi made a T with her hands. "Time out! Lockpicking? Seriously? You're going to get me in trouble!"
"Nonsense." Caitlin eyed the dark-haired Simcoe student. "I don't suppose you know anything about lockpicking?"
"No!" Heidi closed in on Caitlin. "What the hell are you thinking?"
The red-haired girl levelled a gaze at Heidi. "I'm thinking that the Phoenix players are being set up and provoked, on purpose. I don't know why. The referee is obviously in on it, making bad calls against the Academy while missing the obvious against your team." Caitlin stepped in to stand side by side with Heidi. "That's where you come in. I don't know enough about your school. An oversight on my end, really. However, you and your friend Tanya? You showed either bravery or foolhardiness mouthing off at my friends and me. You're perfect."
Heidi arched an eyebrow. "Perfect, right."
"Would any of your fellows even talk to me and mine?" Caitlin shook her head no.
"Fine, what do you want?"
Caitlin snaked an arm around the dark-haired girl's shoulders. She spun Heidi around to face Laura. "Did you notice if any one particular Loyalist player was taking dives or taking advantage. I saw number seventeen elbow Skye."
"I can't be sure." Laura shrugged. "I saw number five fall a couple of times, and number fourteen trip Sasha."
"I'll have to go look," Heidi said. She shrugged out from under Caitlin's arm. "Give me a moment." She ran to the gym door and looked in. After a few seconds, Heidi returned to the small group. "Number seventeen is Bree Powell, five is Jennie Carpenter, and fourteen is Monique Vincent."
"Excellent." Caitlin gave a disapproving look at Laura. "Shouldn't you be writing this down?"
Laura pulled a notepad from her blazer pocket. "When did I become your secretary?"
"Just write the names down, Laura." The redhead returned her attention to Heidi. "Do you know these girls?"
"Bree's in my history class, and we all have English together." Heidi waited to let Laura catch up. "They hang out together from what I've seen."
"Have they ever been called to the office?"
"This year?" Heidi saw Caitlin's slight nod. "Jennie's been called once, but no one knew why. It wasn't unexpected."
Laura looked up from her note-taking. "Frequent flyer?"
Heidi ran her fingers through her hair. "Something like that. She's usually called down more in the first month than in the rest of the year."
Caitlin tapped her fingers on her thigh as she thought. "And the other two?"
"Not yet this year."
"This year? They've been called down in previous years?"
"Yeah. Last year, they got caught hazing the freshmen girls, leading them off campus and abandoning them in the middle of nowhere. I don't know how they avoided being expelled, but they were suspended for two weeks."
"Interesting." Caitlin stopped tapping. She checked her watch. "We're wasting time. We should catch up with Autumn and Tanya."
Autumn pulled over a chair to sit beside Tanya. The Simcoe student tossed her blonde braid back over her shoulder. "What do you need?" Tanya asked.
"Internet access. Admin access if you have it."
"Admin? Ha! They don't trust us enough for that." Tania logged into the workstation. "It's a miracle we have Windows 7."
Autumn read over Laura's notes. "No Linux?"
"Only on personal gear. And if we use Linux, we get a bye in the intro classes." Tanya opened a browser window. "However, all the systems are virtual. Any changes get wiped. We're not supposed to save anything on the hard drive."
A gleam appeared in Autumn's eyes. "Virtual, you say." She laid Laura's notes out in front of the monitor to let Tanya read them. "Search for them and see what comes up."
Tanya entered the ref's name into Google. She read through the results. "Mostly sports results."
Autumn looked over the list. "What's that at the bottom?"
Tanya scrolled down. "Interesting." She clicked on the link. A newspaper's site loaded. Both girls read through the article. "Do you think it's useful?" the blonde asked.
"This can't be it."
"Of course not. It's the first step. How are you with proxy sites and breaking encryption?"
"Just what do they teach you at your school?" Tanya stared at the Unruly girl.
Autumn cracked her knuckles. "You'd be amazed. Scooch over."
Tanya rolled aside, letting Autumn at the keyboard. "I have got to see this."
"We've got the ref's name. It's rare anyone doesn't have an email account, even if it's from a big provider. That page gave us his email address." Autumn opened secure tunnels from one anonymizing proxy to another before pulling up the webmail page for the ref's provider. "Knowing the email address is half the battle. Unfortunately, it's the easy half."
"You think that there's something in his email?"
Autumn nodded. "When did you find out about who your team was playing this evening?"
"Two days ago. That's why Heidi and I thought tonight's game was going to be a blow-out for us. Your team has never finished a game. Same with St. Dymphna."
"Want to see the photos again?"
Tania shuddered. "No." She examined the page on the monitor. "Why do we need the ref's email?"
"You need a schedule before you book referees, right? That gives whoever is behind all of this three days at most to set things up. Probably less. Landline phone numbers are easy to get from a phone directory, but that's traceable." Autumn typed in a password. "Mobile phone numbers are harder to discover, not with spending a lot of time researching the target. Email, though?" The Asian scowled as the incorrect password error appeared. "Older people use their names in one form or another. People our age use names of our favourite things or a name we find cool, often with numbers afterward because someone else took the address first."
"And finding an email address makes things easier." Tanya grinned. "Still leaves the password."
Autumn nodded. "Do you know just how many sites require a password? Email, banking, Facebook, Twitter, and those are the most popular. The more sites you have an account on, the more likely you're going to use a common password, just to remember." She entered a second password. "'Swordfish' is a common password, but apparently the ref has never heard of it. 'Password' is surprisingly common, but people tend to add numbers." Another incorrect password error appeared on screen.
"I am changing all my passwords later tonight. You are scary." Tanya nodded at the screen. "You don't get many tries, though."
"I know!" Autumn sat back in her chair. "The reason why 'password' and 'swordfish' are common is because of length requirements. Names of kids and pets are used, but I don't have the time to look."
Tanya snapped her fingers. "'Qwerty123'! Try it!"
"That's too easy." Nonetheless, Autumn tried the password. The ref's email opened. "Lucky guess."
"It worked. What are we looking for now?"
"Signs of blackmail or bribery. An email that's vague enough to be innocent while still being legit to not be considered spam."
"Really," Caitlin said from the door. "I've got three more names for you, Autumn."
Heidi slipped past the redhead. "What's this about bribery? Who would want a high school basketball game fixed?"
"Someone with money on it." Autumn looked away from the monitor. "Caitlin, do you think Vamsi is involved?"
"Doubt it. She makes money by taking a cut off the top. Vamsi doesn't make bets, just takes them."
Tanya pushed Autumn's hand off the mouse, then clicked in the ref's email. "There, his sent email."
"Caitlin, you're blocking the door." Laura pushed past the red-haired girl. "What about his sent email?"
"Everyone deletes incriminating email from the inbox," Tanya explained. "Not everyone remembers their sent email."
Autumn read through the subjects of the sent messages. "Aha!"
"Print it. We need to get this down to Coach Cherry now."
"Caitlin, you haven't seen it."
Heidi leaned over Autumn's shoulder. "I wonder what the photo was. Blackmail, damn."
"Autumn, print, now." Caitlin tapped her foot.
Tanya pushed Autumn out of the way. "Here."
The printer came to life, warming up. Caitlin walked over to the machine, urging it to hurry up. The page came out. The redhead snatched the sheet. She walked over to Laura. "Run this down to Coach Cherry. Make sure she knows it's about the ref." Laura took the sheet and ran out of the room. Caitlin joined the other girls. "That's tonight dealt with."
Heidi looked up from the screen. "Tonight?"
Caitlin perched on the edge of the table. "I'm still trying to figure out the why." She smoothed out her skirt. "Money on a high school basketball games isn't enough to get a ref fix the game. Heidi, you were right to question it. No one bets so much on a game they need to fix it. Thus, someone has a bigger scheme. The obvious target is the Academy, but that's years of fending off St. Dymphna speaking."
"Why would anyone target us, besides you Unrulies?" Heidi pulled up her own chair and sat down. "Your school is the boogeyman in town."
"Yes, well, we Academy students do tend to get creative with interschool relations. What happened tonight caused problems for students from the Academy. Hurting a sister student is frowned upon."
Tanya rolled away from the computer. "It's happened, though. Back when I was in Grade Seven, I heard about a riot over at your school."
Caitlin coughed. "It wasn't a riot, exactly. More a correction that was needed."
"I heard the police were on alert."
"Anyway, we're done here for tonight." Caitlin got to her feet. "Autumn, hide your tracks." The red-haired girl checked her watch. "The game should be in the final quarter." She started walking to the door. "Shall we see the end?"
Laura tore through the halls and down the stairs to return to the gym. Entering, she looked at the scoreboard. The Loyalists had a five point lead over the Phoenix. Coach Cherry's face was red as she marched up and down in front of the Academy's bench. Skye sat in the middle, head in her hands. Laura walked to the bench, the page in her hand. She waited for the coach to notice her, then handed the paper over. Coach Cherry read over the sheet, her face clouding over. She grabbed Laura's wrist and dragged her to the scorer's bench. "Time!" The buzzer sounded.
Coach Cherry waved the Loyalist coach over to the table. "The game's a sham!" Cherry slammed the sheet of paper down in front of the scorer. "Ref, get your ass over here!"
The referee jogged to the table as the scorer and the Loyalist coach read over the message. "We're wasting time, Gephardt."
The scorer looked up. "Ref, is this yours?"
"Is what mine?" The referee looked down on the table. His eyes fell across the printed email. "What's that?" He paled.
"No denial." Coach Cherry stepped in close to the ref. "You're blowing calls over this?" The referee took two quick steps backwards before running out of the gym.
The Loyalist coach sighed. "Now what? We need a ref to make this game official."
"Do we?" Coach Cherry looked over at the scorer. "We've got one quarter to go. I'll convince my girls to stay clean and avoid fouls."
The Loyalist coach turned her attention to the scorer as well. "How are you with calling from the sidelines? The accidental fouls, we don't care about. Deliberate fouls, we do."
The scorer shrugged. "Maybe? It's not normal."
"Has anything tonight been normal?" Coach Cherry asked. "Look, my girls were looking forward to finishing a game tonight and keeping it official. Given the officiating tonight, I'm surprised not one of them has thrown a punch. I want this game to count, win or lose."
"Sure, I'll give it a shot."
"Good," the Loyalist coach said. "I'll tell my girls to keep it clean."
Coach Cherry smiled. "Thanks." She looked down at Laura. "Don't tell me how you got that." The coach dragged Laura back to the bench. "Listen up, ladies! We have a chance to finish this game." Coach Cherry let go of Laura's arm to march in front of the Phoenix bench. "However, you must avoid temptation to clock the opponent, no matter how much she deserves it. Keep it clean, girls, and no dives." Cherry stopped in front of Skye. "Can you handle that, Martin?"
Skye met Coach Cherry's eyes. "Yes, Coach."
Skye stood up. "Yes, Coach!"
"Now get out there and show them what a Phoenix can do!"
"Okay, then try this one: Are we the target?"
"Laura's failing English."
"Are you sure you can read?"
"It means there's not enough cheesecake."