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The Maltese Window Cleaner

By Lincoln Spector

The night was as dark as a spammer's heart. I had just finished a big case…some recording company wanted to know who was stealing their music. They didn't like the answer: everybody. But I liked their check; it was big and fat and had lots of zeros—some of them before the decimal point.

The name is Rowe. Mack Rowe. Private consultant.

I was debating what I should do with the money—buy a new overcoat or invest in gumshoes—when someone knocked on my door. When you work in the scummiest part of town and someone knocks at 3:00 in the morning, you can't be too careful.

"Come in," I called. "The door is unlocked."

In walked a gorgeous dame with blonde hair out of a bottle, a bright red dress with a slit skirt, and legs that stretched all the way to her waist. "Mr. Rowe," she said, "I'm in a terrible fix. I need your help. Teddy hasn't been himself, lately. I suspect foul play."

"And Teddy is your husband," I asked.

"No," she explained, "my computer." She pulled a notebook out of her oversized purse and laid it on my desk. "He's painfully slow. Several programs don't run at all. It can't be a virus, I'm running Kowalski Internet Security Suite."

That explained it. Kowalski might protect her from viruses, but she needed me to protect her from Kowalski. I named a price, we negotiated, and I agreed to do it for nothing. Then she left some CDs and an AC adapter and disappeared into the night.

I plugged in the AC adapter, booted the notebook, downed a shot of bourbon, rolled a cigarette, smoked it, then checked the PC. Still booting. Three cigarettes later, it was ready.

The first thing I did was slip the Run box a little msconfig. But instead of the configuration utility, I got a web page full of naked women. This puzzled me for a moment. Had Microsoft changed the interface or was my client just a little bit kinky? I tried regedit with the same results.

I scanned the hard drive with Kowalski Internet Security Suite—just on a hunch. Turned out the dame had installed a free program named UCanTrustUs.