I’ve loved listening to music since I was a little girl. Not because I’m musically gifted, but because notes, themes, chords and tempo all have an intrinsic mathematical logic that speaks to me. After all, music is defined by its numeric divisions, such as a beat, a measure or a bar. Musical scales are actually harmonics based on the numerical ratios present in the Fibonacci series, which are a sequence of integers beginning at zero and one and continuing with each new number being the sum of the previous two.
I know all of this because I’m a geek first-class. My name is Lexi Carmichael and I’m a mild-mannered twenty-five-year old who, thankfully for music aficionados, is not employed in any part of the music industry. By day, I work as the Director of Information Security at a hot new cyber-intelligence firm just outside of Washington, D.C. By night, I’m a gamer, book nerd and fangirl (Bond, Star Wars, Dr. Who, Lord of the Rings). I’ve got long brown hair, no discernible curves and zip in the social skills department. I double-majored in mathematics and computer science at Georgetown University with a specialty in cybersecurity. Ask me to talk about a rigorous axiomatic framework or computational complexity theory, and I’m all over it. Ask me to make small talk and I’ll imagine myself jumping off a bridge.
Yet here I am, dressed in my fanciest dress—okay, it’s my only dress—and attending an opera at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., with a man whose social skills and intellect far exceed my own. Small talk is inevitable, and I have a sad feeling that my observations on the Fibonacci series in Don Giovanni won’t fill more than a few minutes.
My acquaintance’s name is Slash, which is short for “backslash” in hacker lingo. I’m pretty decent myself at the keyboard, but Slash is a hacker of extraordinary ability. Of course, Slash isn’t his real name but so far he’s never felt compelled to tell me what his family named him at birth. In fact everything about Slash is a mystery, except that he assures me he’s Italian-American and he works, at least partially, for the NSA, where I was once gainfully employed. He’s so good at what he does that he’s watched around the clock by a team of FBI agents who I’m pretty sure are instructed to kill him rather than let him fall into enemy hands.
Tonight, Slash looked jaw-droppingly handsome in three piece suit and tie. I’m pretty sure this isn’t a date because I’m quasi-seeing my boss, Finn Shaughnessy, and Slash knows that. But Finn’s and my situation is fraught with complications and I’m having a hard time sorting it all out. Maybe Slash doesn’t care about Finn or maybe he does. I wouldn’t know either way. Technically, the word date wasn’t mentioned once in relation to our evening. So, as far as I know, this is just Slash’s goodwill gesture to expand my personal horizons into areas, up until now, unexplored.
Slash led me to the coatroom and graciously eased me out of my coat. November could get rather chilly in Washington, D.C. and my dress was more of a light summer garment. But seeing as how it was the only suitable choice in my closet, I had to make do by wearing a pinned shawl around my shoulders and chest, partially to keep me warm and partially to hide the fact that it was scandalously low-cut in the front. I don’t normally wear such revealing clothes, but my best friend Basia made me. Slash didn’t have a jacket other than the one he wore with his suit, but it didn’t matter. I could feel the heat radiating off him. I nearly jumped when his hot fingers brushed my bare shoulders as he removed my coat.
© Julie Moffett No Place Like Rome Excerpt