‘Where could it be?’ a frustrated Virkar exploded. His attempt at dismantling the ceiling fan and looking at its components had yielded no results. Virkar had spent most of the afternoon searching for the hidden camera device that had shot the footage of him in Naina’s bed.
‘I told you that it wasn’t in the fan,’ Naina said. ‘The angle is not right.’
‘I can’t leave anything to chance,’ he replied, looking determined.
Naina was only half listening to him. Her gaze was fixed intently on the video clip that she was playing on Virkar’s mobile. ‘This camera is at the same level as you…a little lower perhaps…’
Virkar cut her off. ‘How do we know there aren’t any other cameras? The fact that the bastard got a video recording device into this room is shocking in itself.’
Naina didn’t say anything; she seemed deep in thought. Virkar continued, ‘He could have more footage of us actually making love. This guy could destroy my reputation, our lives.’
Naina looked up, suddenly becoming aware of what Virkar had said. Her eyes began to well up with tears. Virkar stepped closer and wrapped his arms around her. Naina rested her face on his chest. For a few minutes, they stood silently in embrace but Naina’s hot tears on his chest spoke volumes to Virkar.
‘Don’t be afraid, Naina,’ Virkar said in a soothing voice. ‘Nothing is going to happen to you.’ Naina gently broke away from him, looking him in the face as the tears continued to fall. She looked as if she wanted to say something. Something was bothering her. Virkar waited for her to speak, but Naina remained silent. The tears kept streaming down. Virkar reached out and wiped her tears with his palm. ‘Now I understand this man’s game. He preys on people’s fears to extort whatever he wants from them. But I’ll catch him. I swear to you.’ His grim, determined voice had its effect on Naina—her tears suddenly abated.
Just then, the doorbell rang. Virkar raised a quizzical eyebrow at Naina. ‘Were you expecting someone?’ Naina nodded.
‘What? Why?’ Virkar burst out.
‘He’s good with all this high-tech stuff. He’ll help us,’ she said as she got up to open the door. But Virkar reached out and held her back. She turned to face him.
‘Only on one condition. You don’t show him the footage.’
Naina’s eyes widened. ‘Of course not, stupid.’
She left to open the door. A few seconds later, Richard entered the room. He had noticed Naina’s puffy eyes and Virkar’s grim face and was suitably subdued.
Without wasting any time, Virkar said, ‘Richard, I need you to help me find a camera hidden in this room.’
If Richard was surprised on hearing this, he did not show it. His eyes scanned the room and settled on Naina’s study table at the far corner of the room. ‘There it is,’ he said. Virkar and Naina turned to look in the direction of the table.
‘Where?’ they asked almost in unison.
‘There.’ Richard pointed at the computer on the table.
‘I don’t get it,’ Virkar said, looking confused.
‘Inspector, the problem is that you’re looking for a hidden camera but there is one out in the open. The webcam.’
Virkar and Naina stared at the computer, looking stunned.
Virkar shook his head. ‘No, no…I’m looking for a camera that can record something in this room.’
Richard nodded. ‘That webcam can record whatever goes on.’
‘But…’ Virkar trailed off, suddenly realizing that what Richard was saying made perfect sense. In fact, now that he looked at it closely, the angle of the webcam was absolutely right for the video clip on his phone.
Naina spoke for the first time. ‘Richard, can you show us how it’s possible for someone other than us to record a video using my webcam?’
Richard walked up to the computer and noticed that although the computer was in sleep mode, its power was turned on. Richard looked at Naina. ‘Do you always keep your computer on?’
Naina shrugged. ‘Well…yes. I don’t like to wait while it boots every time, so I keep it in sleep mode so that when I want to access something quickly, all I have to do is press a key.’
Richard nodded. ‘Most people do that, but that also means that the computer is actually on, and so is the webcam.’ Richard now began to enter various codes into the computer. ‘Do you play online games or stream TV shows?’
Naina nodded. ‘I sometimes watch episodes of Friends online.’
‘That’s it,’ said Richard. ‘You click on a link of an episode of Friends and it says, “You don’t have the required codec. Click here to download it,” right?’
‘I don’t know,’ Naina said, looking unsure.
‘Yes,’ said Richard. ‘Most people don’t even know what they are doing. They click on the download button and start watching their show. But in the background, the codec can be programmed to work as a Trojan. To simplify, it can serve as a backdoor entry into your computer, allowing another user remote access to your files, your folders…and your webcam.’
‘But I have an antivirus program installed.’
Richard shrugged. ‘What is an antivirus? It’s like the small Chinese lock on your suitcase. Anyone who knows how can break it in his sleep.’
By now, Virkar was standing next to Richard and listening to him intently. ‘If what you to say is possible, it’s a really scary situation.’
Richard smiled. ‘You bet. The hacker can treat your computer as his own. All he has to do is run an application that accesses the webcam and record from it—even with something as simple as a Skype call.’
‘Richard, can you please make sure that all that remote access-shackcess is removed from my computer?’ Naina asked, sounding angry.
Richard’s smile became broader. ‘Of course I can.’ Virkar looked at him, half expecting him to ask for something in return. But Richard shook his head. ‘This one’s for free, Inspector.’ He turned back to the computer and started punching keys rapidly.
Suddenly, Virkar’s phone vibrated with a message alert. Virkar opened the SMS and froze.
‘So you found it. No problem. I’ll think of something else.’
The message ended with a grotesque-looking animated smiley that oozed blood where a knife was plunged into it.