| Family First Serial |

Stand By: Chapter 23

"There’s probably footage that will prove my father had nothing to do with this, and I have no way to get it"


It was comforting to know that when push came to shove, Chayala’s friends had her back. She rubbed her tired eyes and looked across the conference table littered with pizza boxes and empty cans of grapefruit sparkling water, and gave Dassi and Aly a weary smile.

After Dassi’s vort on Thursday night, they’d watched footage until late at night and had jumped back into it — Dassi included — on Motzaei Shabbos and all day Sunday. The batch of footage that her security company had sent her was almost entirely made up of footage after Chayala’s father’s investigation was already underway, but right at the beginning there had been two weeks of footage teeming with promise. There was material that captured her father alone, with Mike, and two instances of Mike alone. Chayala shuddered to think what Mike might have had access to while he was alone in her offices, so her IT company was doing a deep dive to triple check that nothing had been compromised.

Through it all, Dassi and Aly (and Etty, when she had five minutes to run over between bedtimes) were right there, combing through footage with her and helping decipher any hard-to-hear sections, which were more than she thought.

“You there?” came a voice through the phone, and Chayala startled. She recovered quickly.

“I’m here.”

It was the guy from her security company.

“Okay, so I took your request up the food chain to see if there’s any way that I could get a master code to override the 90-day maximum that we currently have on your account. I thought we had the footage stored on a server somewhere, and I just had to figure out a way to access it….” He got quiet. “I’m really sorry. Unfortunately, I was wrong, and we don’t have it any more. My boss told me that our system automatically deletes the archives over 90 days old — otherwise the data files would be so big that nothing would work at all. I wish there was something more I could do.”

Chayala slumped in her chair. She was sitting with her feet up on another chair, so that was impressive.

“Thanks for trying. If there’s anything else you can think of, I’m all ears.”

“Well, listen, it is Sunday. I’ll see if anyone on the team has any ideas tomorrow, and I’ll keep you posted.”

Chayala hung up the phone, feeling deflated. This was the closest she’d gotten by far, and once again it looked like her big plans were about to fall through.

“Hey! Don’t give up now,” said Aly. She got up to sweep a pile of crumpled brown paper bags into the garbage can. “We have that one video that definitely shows something fishy! It’s a great start.”

“Ugh, I’ve watched that video so many times that at this point I’m not even sure if it’s fishy or just normal business stuff,” moaned Chayala.

Dassi turned her laptop around and loaded the clip that had gotten Chayala so worked up when she’d come across it on Thursday night. She pressed play. On the screen, her father and his partner stood in the conference room, the volume of their voices wavering with the low-quality audio footage, but the words were still audible.

“Abe, I told you to stay out of it. My clients are my business.”

“I’ve worked with you for over a decade, Mike! And you know good and well that is absolutely not how we do business around here. We’re partners, and there needs to be transparency.”

“I don’t care how you think we need to do things. This is my biggest client, and if you think I’m going to jeopardize anything because you insist on some ridiculous formalities, you have another thing coming.”

The clip had ended there because Chayala’s father, clearly furious at his partner’s reply, had stormed out of the conference room. On the little box on the screen that showed the parking lot, they could see his car pulling off into the night.

Chayala looked at her friends, frustration coloring her voice. “Okay, it’s a start. But hello, I only have one barely usable video from three months of footage, and saying that this is evidence is definitely a stretch. And the rest is who-knows-where, floating around in cyberspace! It might even be worse, knowing there’s probably footage that will prove my father had nothing to do with this, and I have no way to get it.”

Dassi frowned sympathetically. “Are you sure the security company can’t get it? How can they just delete it forever? I thought nothing can be deleted forever from the Internet.”

Aly jumped up. “Wait, you’re right! I have a cousin who is one of these crazy computer geniuses. He dropped out of high school and everyone thought he was done for, but he built some crazy program and licensed it to the US military. I’m calling him.” She dug her cell phone out of her hoodie pocket and flipped it open.

“Danny? Hey, it’s Aly! How are you? Good! How are Aunt Jacqui and Uncle Lenny? Oh good. Okay, random question, but I have a friend who needs your help….”

Five minutes later, Cousin Danny had gotten into Chayala’s office network and was humming to himself — they could hear through Aly’s flip phone speakers — as he hacked into the security camera IP addresses, eight cameras in total. “I should have all the juicy footage you need within the next 45 minutes,” he said happily. “I’ll email them to you, Al. And next time, find me a real challenge, eh?”


Ari and Dassi left Ateres Rosa and started the five-block walk toward their parking spot. Williamsburg parking was still the stuff of legend, Dassi thought, marveling that it had been a seriously long time since she’d left Lakewood to attend a wedding. That was a good thing. At least the weather had held up. She folded her rain jacket over her arm as they walked.

“That was a nice wedding,” she offered. “I think the next wedding I have is ours. Isn’t that crazy?”

“Ours will be nicer,” Ari said.

Dassi blinked. “It will be nicer for us, that’s for sure,” she replied after a beat.

“By the way,” he shot back, “glad you could fit me in for a date.” A corner of his mouth turned up in a wry smirk. “Not that I think going to my cousin’s wedding is much of a date.”

Dassi shot a look at him, alarmed.

“What do you mean? I didn’t reschedule or anything. And I had fun tonight. I like your aunts.”

His eyes narrowed a little. “I mean both times we spoke in the last week you cut the conversation short. I thought we were putting each other first, but I don’t know. Obviously, whatever you’re busy with with Chayala is more important than our relationship. I just don’t get why you would be sabotaging the one good thing in your life.” His tone at the end sounded light, like he was kidding, but his smile didn’t reach his eyes. And also, what he was saying wasn’t funny.

Dassi cleared her throat and kept her eyes firmly planted on the sidewalk. Wait a second. Had she been looking for excuses? Maybe she had been… it was true, discussing wedding plans and moving plans were stressing her out, but was that really so unusual? It wasn’t like she’d been avoiding him.

Her mouth opened so she could explain. “I’m sorry,” she said instead, quietly. She thought about telling him about the deep anxiety she was feeling, and how sometimes she could pinpoint exactly why, but otherwise it was just an unsettled feeling she couldn’t name or shake, but the words refused to come. It was safer to just answer his question.

“It’s just… I told you a little bit about Chayala’s situation. She’s finally gotten close to resolving this whole crazy issue. And we actually got the old footage from her surveillance cameras. I think I told you last time we were trying to hunt it down, no? Anyway, Aly’s cousin is apparently a real-life hacker and he found what Chayala was looking for.

“The crazy thing is once Chayala got the files, she flipped out a little and realized she’s not comfortable hacking into her father’s life. So she called her father and apologized and sent him everything without even looking at it. His lawyers are going through the files now. I’m sure it will end up okay. Her father is such a nice person.”

“Nice person?” Ari turned to her with an eyebrow raised. “I mean, the guy has been under a fraud investigation for months, and where there’s smoke, there’s fire, that’s what I always say.” He stepped off the curb and crossed the Avenue. “Anyway, nice guys finish last.”

Dassi thought about answering that, but reconsidered it. Why start something now? She felt a fat raindrop hit the back of her hand.

“Oh shoot,” she said. “It’s starting to rain. Are we close to the car?”

“Two more blocks,” he said, and started to walk faster.

The rain started to fall in earnest now, and Dassi drifted toward the store awning on her right. Ari looked at her. “Do you want to wait here while I go get the car?” he asked, then he shook his head. “Nah, let’s just make a run for it. Can I have your jacket?” He pointed to the coat still slung over Dassi’s arm.

Dassi handed him the coat without really thinking, and watched as he took his new wedding hat off and wrapped it carefully in her rain jacket, then dashed to the car.

“Quick, unlock it!” Dassi called to Ari.

She slid into her seat, shuddering, and wiped her face from the rain. Ari carefully placed his hat down on the back seat.

to be continued…


 (Originally featured in Family First, Issue 845)

Oops! We could not locate your form.