Can You See Me Now?

by Lubrican

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Chapter Three

Bob checked his new Colorado interest every time he was on the 0800 - 1600 shift. He knew it was silly, but the night after he'd seen the girl, he'd dreamed about her. In his dream she was standing behind her house, looking up and waving at him with a smile on her face. The angle was wrong, so he couldn't see if she'd taken her top off or not and in the dream, of course, his controls didn't work. The last part of that dream he could remember was him, screaming for someone to come fix his console so he could see all of her.

The first four times he checked, there was nothing at all to see. The car was there three of those times, and missing once. He had already decided that whoever worked in the family did so at night, because the car was there in daylight hours too often. He worked at night, but his job sheet when the United States was in darkness was always longer and more involved. People watched for danger in the daytime, but his birds were the only things that could see large areas at night.

Then, as if by magic, she was there again, lying out in exactly the same place, on the same chaise lounge, wearing the same bikini. He panned in close. Man! She was good looking. He felt perverted for staring at her like this. His view was as if he were standing on a ladder ten or fifteen feet above her. He thought about going closer, but the protocols for using really high magnifications were different. When he went closer than ten feet, the computer automatically recorded what was on the screen. And those recordings automatically went to his supervisor for a determination of whether or not an analyst needed to study them further.

He knew what would happen if his supervisor saw that kind of tape, and it wouldn't be a happy reaction.

He wondered for an instant if she'd received his message. He panned out. The sheet was still there, unchanged. He counted in his mind. She'd gotten it. Maybe she was simply a lady. Or married, and her husband would freak out if she went outside topless. There could be a hundred reasons why she would ignore a crass note like that. He suddenly felt guilty. He'd probably creeped her out.

An hour later, he sent her another note. This one said:

"I saw you sunbathing again today. I apologize for making that crass suggestion. It was all in fun, I promise. I just saw your sign and, because you were teasing me, I thought it might be fun to tease you back. I won't bother you any more. I hope I didn't creep you out too badly. I promise you have nothing to fear from me."

It wasn't until he was in bed, after his shift, that he realized he'd actually signed his message at the bottom with the word "Bob." He sat bolt upright. What if she made a complaint? What if she took the notes to the police, and they gave it to the FBI and they recognized it for what it was? He'd just given them a confession!

Riley held Curtis up so he could pull down the door on the mail box and reach in for whatever was there. When she saw the envelope, she somehow knew instantly who it was from. She never got mail that lacked a return address. Except for this guy. She wondered how that worked. She peered at the cancellation stamp. It was from Skowhegan, Maine. The first one had been from somewhere in Nebraska.

She went inside. Curtis followed, asking if any of the mail was for him. They had been to get pizza and he was full of energy.

"Maybe," she said, thinking of giving him the strange mail. He'd never know the difference, and since he couldn't read, she could say anything when she read it to him. She went to the big, scuffed up sideboard she'd gotten at the Salvation Army Thrift Store. At just ten dollars, it had been cheaper than a bookcase. She opened the drawer she'd tossed the original letter into. On impulse, she had kept it. Who knew? It might make a good story someday, maybe at a party. If she ever got invited to one. Or hosted one.

She looked at the postmark on that one. Broken Bow, Nebraska. Who came up with these names? Skowhegan? Broken Bow? Then again, she had left her mother in Borger, Texas, and that was a strange name too.

She tore open the new mail, and read the message with eyes that widened. It was no fluke. The guy really could see her. And apparently on a regular basis. This was no helicopter pilot.

Again she went out back, and stood to stare up at the mountains behind her house. There was nobody living there. She knew that. There were four named mountains behind her, and they might have hiking trails through them, but there were few roads that went into them. Maybe there was a fire watch tower or something like that, where some lonely forest ranger with powerful binoculars had nothing better to do than look for women sunbathing.

She laughed. The image of the forest ranger from the Red Green Show, on PBS popped into her head. What was his name? She couldn't remember now. The reason she laughed was because she thought of the cartoon version of him, rather than the actual actor.

Forest rangers were good guys ... right?

And they'd never meet anyway.

Why not give the poor guy a little treat?

She gave the envelope to Curtis, with the letter tucked inside, and told him it was from Santa, reminding him to keep a Christmas list all year, and send it in when the time came. Curtis was thrilled.

Then they went for a hike in the woods. She made Curtis walk for as long as he could, and then carried him back to the house. She put him down for a nap, and had a glass of orange juice.

Then she went out to lay out in the sun ... topless.

Riley Franklin learned something very interesting the first day she lay out in the sun with her breasts bared to the world at large and to a stranger named "Bob" in particular.

It was wonderful!

She had been nervous about it at first. She had misgivings as soon as she stepped out of the house. She had left her top on the bed, and walking out of her house topless was very strange. But she knew there was no one near, so she steeled her mind and set up the chaise lounge.

She had waited to put lotion on, thinking she might be so uncomfortable that she'd go back in and get her top. But within ten minutes, she was amazed at how good the sun felt on her breasts, and she reached for the lotion that would protect her from burning.

When she rubbed it over her breasts, she got horny.

That was normal, in the sense that she loved to have her nipples played with. They were very sensitive, and spiked all the time, seemingly on their own. They got erect the instant she decided to use her vibrator, for instance, before she even got the thing out of her nightstand drawer. All she had to do was think about masturbating, and her nipples stood up and said, "Don't forget us!" As a result, they got pinched a lot.

They ended up getting pinched now too. As she rubbed the oil all over her belly, shoulders and arms, her hands kept going back to her breasts, molding them and teasing her nipples. She sat up to do her legs, and thought about taking her bottoms off too. That shocked her, though. Letting some forest ranger see her boobs was one thing. She didn't want to give him the entirely wrong idea by doing too much. If he could see her through binoculars, he could probably figure out how to find her house, and she didn't want to motivate him to do that. Her imagination provided the cartoon character with just enough motive to keep looking at her back yard, in anticipation of seeing her like she was now ... not to seek her out for more. That could be a problem.

Then again, she did miss having a nice stiff one deep inside her, stretching her delightfully and rubbing all those spots with warm flesh, instead of cold plastic.

Ten minutes later the urge to slide her hand into her bottoms was too hard to resist. He probably wasn't watching right now anyway. What were the odds that, at the exact moment she decided to lay out, he was looking her way? Astronomically low ... right?

Five minutes and one soothing orgasm later, she lay limp, and dozed off.

There was no forest ranger, of course. And the odds that anyone might be looking her way from a satellite at that specific moment were, in fact, astronomically low.

In fact, nobody watched as Riley Franklin found out how much fun it was to sunbathe naked.

Or at least almost naked.

And part of her mind knew that the odds were in her favor, so to speak. Whoever was peeking at her couldn't be doing it very often. So that part of her brain told her how low the odds were that Ranger Bob would actually see her on a given day.

Which is why she continued to sunbathe that way ... and the odds got a heck of a lot higher.

Though neither of them knew it, when Bob did let his cursor wander over to Colorado, just to look at the cabin again, Riley was laying out topless for the fifth time. It was late July by then, and the weather was glorious. The first time she'd bared her breasts to "her forest ranger," had been two weeks earlier. She hadn't received anything in the mail, and what astonished her was that she was a little disappointed. Something in her wanted her secret admirer to react to what she'd begun doing. Another part of her, however, was glad he hadn't. She really liked sunbathing that way now, and she didn't want to have to stop because she got another letter and got shy because of it.

To illustrate this war within herself, the second time she'd laid out she remembered her sign on the roof, and had climbed up to get it. She'd used the other side and written "Hey NSA! Is this better, Bob?" But she hadn't tacked it to the roof. She'd had a wave of ... something ... that had, in fact, made her shy. And yet, she'd gone outside and laid out half nude that day, anyway.

The third time she laid out, she did put the sign back on her roof. Her shyness had abated. Laying out this way felt normal, now.

Both times Bob had seen the sunbathing woman, it had been around noon. Depending on the time his seventy-two hour shift started, he was on duty at that time of day a maximum of two times, and sometimes it was only once. Whenever he got the chance, though, he clicked on that part of Colorado only to see if she might be in sight. He didn't expect anything, really. It was more like he was just hopeful he'd be able to see her, and how she was dressed didn't matter. Like Riley had fantasies about Ranger Gord (she had finally looked it up online), Bob had his own fantasy about the bikini clad beauty who he'd seen twice. He knew he'd never meet her, and she'd rebuffed his "suggestion" but that didn't keep him from dreaming a little. She lived in a beautiful place, and he could easily fantasize about her being his girlfriend.

It was hard to have a romance when you worked the kind of hours he did, and couldn't tell your girlfriend what you did during those hours. Most of the analysts who weren't married lacked the regular company of a girl. Some of them patronized hookers, but that was dangerous, because if you went to a hooker and anyone found out, it would affect your security clearance. For some reason, everybody in Washington believed that if you fucked a prostitute, you also told her everything there was to know about your life, including the secrets. He didn't know how many times that had actually happened, as some person in an important and sensitive position, tried to impress a call girl he might never see again. And he didn't know that, to those call girls, personal information was easily traded for money or favors.

But Bob didn't go to hookers. He didn't understand people who were willing to get naked with a stranger and then pay them to have sex. There was no romance in that. Besides, he wasn't that hard up. His hand worked just fine, and it was right there whenever he needed it, night or day.

It was the change in the sign that caught his attention first. He could tell it had changed long before he had zoomed in enough to read it. Again, it was canted strangely, but he could read his name even in that position.

His heart seized, and then pounded. She'd put his fucking name on her roof! He pushed the button to reorient the image, and stared, unbelieving at the new message. He looked immediately to the back yard, and almost fell out of his chair when he saw only one black stripe across her otherwise white body.

He zoomed, and his jaw dropped as his eyes took in the twin dark spots of her nipples. The urge to go reportably close was almost too much to resist. But he did resist, pulling back, in fact, to see her whole body. Her head was turned, and her arms lay, palms up, suggesting they were limp. She might be sleeping.

He couldn't believe it. She'd actually done it!

He was conflicted. Elation filled him, naturally. A woman had taken off her top for him. A guy just couldn't help but feel great about that. But putting his name on her roof could be disastrous if another analyst saw it. Technically, he didn't work for NSA per se, but it would be child's play for any analyst who used the same satellites to figure out what Bob she was referring to. He was the only "Bob" he knew who worked at the agency, and even if there were others who worked for different agencies, the records of what he'd accessed would make it clear he was the Bob she was "talking" to. And that would open a great big fucking can of worms. How innocent it was wouldn't matter. He'd already broken a dozen rules, and that was all they'd think about.

He couldn't afford to wait for the mail. That would take days. And, in any case, somebody might start asking questions about why multiple blind mail messages were being sent to a private address in Colorado.

He'd have to risk it and use email.

Assuming she had an email account.

He shook his head. Everybody had email. And in any case, finding out was as simple as falling out of his chair.

He already had her name and address, but for the program he wanted to use, that wasn't enough. He centered the cursor on the cabin and hit a button on his console. The latitude and longitude came up in a box in the lower right corner of his screen. 38° 51' 7.1064'' North, and 104° 57' 4.2336'' West. He punched another button that converted that GPS setting to the kind of digital address used by phone companies and internet providers. He had to enter his password, but then all kinds of information about Riley Franklin popped up on his screen. The IP address assigned to her computer was there, along with the most frequently used IP addresses of other computers she accessed. Such as her bank, and her internet provider.

This was the dangerous part. The fact that he accessed such information with his password was noted on some spreadsheet somewhere. Unless he actually mined data from this screen, that was all that was recorded. If he actually clicked on any field of data, and retrieved personal information, that was noted somewhere too. He knew that because, in his routine duties, he had accessed the personal data of a banker, and three days later his supervisor had asked him about it. He had the record of what he'd done, and who he'd sent the information to, and that was all legit, so his supervisor had said, "Okay," and left. If anybody came and asked him why he'd done what he was doing, he'd have to have some kind of answer.

He was about to hit the button that would retrieve all the information her internet provider had on her, when he paused.

Maybe she had a Facebook account. He couldn't believe he hadn't thought of that.

He moused to a different monitor and went online like anybody else would. He had a Facebook account that went with his job, but that was all fake. And people might look at that one. They might look at his real one too, for that matter, but unless there was a problem, nobody would care if he "friended" Riley Franklin. Assuming she wasn't some thorn in the Government's paw.

This was too complicated. He was paid to be suspicious, but it didn't work if you became paranoid. And he had to get that sheet off the roof of her cabin. That was for sure.

He signed into his Facebook account and did a friend search for "Riley Franklin." He was astonished when only one popped up. He clicked on that, and was elated when her location was listed as Colorado. It had to be her.

He clicked on the message tab and typed.

Riley, I know I said I wouldn't bother you again, but you have to get that sheet off of your roof. If any of the other analysts see it, and my supervisor finds out I contacted you, I'll get fired. I'm really knocked out that you did what you did. You look fantastic, by the way, but please take the sheet down. Please? I'll do anything if you just take that sheet down.

He went ahead and signed it Bob and hit the send button.

Then he worried for hours that he'd given her too much information. Like the fact that he was an "analyst", not to mention his full, real name, which was tagged to his account. Even worse, he had said he'd "do anything" which, if his superiors read, would immediately get his security clearance pulled.

But it didn't matter. If anybody saw the sheet, he was screwed. It was better to throw himself on her mercy than risk that. He knew there were protocols to search for text with a satellite. They were used to track shipments of nuclear materials. The vehicles used had numbers and letters painted on the tops. If they went off route, they could be located with a nation-wide search. And since the paint used on the numbers was, itself, radioactive, even if it was covered by a tarp, there were satellites that could still see it. If somebody input the letters "NSA" into that system, it would zero in on her rooftop within an hour. Of course there was no reason anybody would perform that search.

But he couldn't take the chance.

He set his account to give him an audible alert if someone sent him a message, and went back to work.

Riley checked her email frequently, because she used it in her business. She only checked her Facebook account once a day. She had thought about getting rid of it altogether. She didn't have many friends, and she didn't talk to the ones she did have all that often. It wasn't that they weren't actually "friends." It was more like they had nothing to talk about after they caught up with each other's activities. But she kept it because you never knew when somebody from your past who you would want to talk to might show up on Facebook. She wasn't worried about Chuck finding her. She didn't expect to ever hear from him again. And if she did, he'd disappear plenty quick when she started talking about all that child support he'd never paid her.

So she was surprised when she logged on and found a new message from someone she didn't know. The name "Robert" on the message hit her and she knew, instinctively that this was "Bob."

Her first impression was "How the hell did he find me?" The answer to that was obvious immediately. He had sent her snail mail. He knew her name. Searching that name was easy.

She clicked on the message and read it. It was an odd experience to laugh, while she was frowning.

She sat there, staring at the message for a long time. She read it several times, trying to imagine the man who had typed it. There were so many aspects to reflect on. Her gut instinct took it at face value. He was a guy who thought he was in trouble. That had been foremost in his mind. But he'd still complimented her. He hadn't been vulgar about it, and he hadn't dwelled on it. He also hadn't asked for more. But that was probably because he was worried about losing his job.

That job was still nebulous in her mind. He obviously wasn't Ranger Gord. She was a little saddened by that, for some reason. Ranger Gord had been a nice fantasy. And he wasn't a helicopter pilot or anything like that. He was an analyst, whatever that meant. She knew what a systems analyst was, but that didn't make sense. He could see her. That much was clear.

It was then that she thought seriously about satellite surveillance for the first time. She thought that was funny, since her sheet had been addressed to the NSA. But she hadn't believed a government agency would actually see it. She had been convinced someone else had seen it and used it as an excuse to contact her.

Now, she wondered, amazed, if what she'd thought was hyperbole about satellite surveillance wasn't so farfetched after all.

Her emotions, at the moment, were a strange mix of anger, curiosity, and appreciation. This guy ... this Bob ... had intruded on her privacy, apparently from a satellite ... a satellite that was either over her house all the time, or could see it regularly. That was creepy. At the same time, he seemed like he wasn't a terrible human being. He'd apologized to her, and offered to leave her alone. Of course he'd still looked. That much was clear. And he'd seen not only her new sign ... but her too! A man had watched her sunbathe half nude! In some unfathomable, strange way, that made her feel a little tingly. She wondered what he looked like? If he had a picture on his Facebook page, she could find out.

She went back to the message and clicked on his name. His page popped up. There was a picture. He looked like a normal guy. He wore glasses and had a full beard. He had a nice smile. Of course that didn't mean anything. It looked like there might be more pictures, but she'd have to friend him to see those. Did she want to do that?

It occurred to her that he hadn't asked to be friended.

She sat and stared at his picture for a minute or more.

Then she went outside, got her ladder, and took the sheet off the roof.

The only thing she wrote back was, "I took it down. It's not nice to peek at women sunbathing."

Bob was exactly two minutes from going off the desk for his sleep cycle when the alert sounded. He had wrapped things up. George, who was supposed to relieve him, had checked in and asked if he could hit the can before coming on shift. Bob had said, "Sure," and gone on cleaning up the console.

He looked over his shoulder and then clicked things with the mouse.

She had written back!

He didn't have time to verify that the sheet was gone, but he took her word for it. He felt a wave of relief wash over him. Her castigation of his morals didn't bother him. She hadn't made any threats or anything. He wanted to send her a thank you note, but George might be back any second. Besides, he wanted to check and make sure the sheet was gone before he wrote to her again.

He slept well, and was eager to get to work. It was five in the morning, Colorado time, but he had the filters to see well in poor light. The sheet was, in fact, gone. Her cabin looked no different than anything else in the area. There was nothing to draw the eye of another analyst. Again, he sighed with relief.

He wrote her a quick note. His job sheet was pretty full, and he didn't know if he'd get a chance to send her anything for a few hours. He wanted his thanks to be right there, the next time she logged on. He tried to make it polite, but warm at the same time.

Riley. Thank you so much. I'm really sorry I intruded into your life. It was a fluke that I saw your original message. You don't have to worry about peeping Toms. There is really nothing in your area of the world that is of interest to other people like me. It's just that sometimes we get a little bored, and then we look around, trying to find something to keep us awake. You sure did that. Your sign caught my interest, and then I saw you. I'll be polite and just say you're very easy on the eyes, even eyes that are a thousand miles away. And the third time? Wow! Thank you for that. I know I shouldn't have done it, and I'm sorry if I annoyed you or made you nervous. I'm really quite harmless. Though, to be honest, you've been a really bright spot in my day, and you should probably put your top back on, because I doubt if I'll be able to resist looking in on you from time to time, just to make sure you're okay. Thanks again for helping me out, and for having patience with me being naughty.

He signed it Bob. He didn't tell her about all those times he'd looked at the cabin when she wasn't outside. He just hoped she'd take his apology and forget it. She had the power. All she had to do was put up another sheet with "NSA BOB HAS BEEN SPYING ON ME!" and sooner or later somebody would see it. He'd be toast, and she'd have her revenge.

He hoped she didn't think of that.

He sent the message, hoping for the best. Then he started in on his job sheet.

It turned out his day was full enough that he didn't think about her for six hours.

Riley got up and fixed breakfast for Curtis and herself. He had toys to play with, and his own used desktop computer that was loaded with learning games. Normally, she could work off and on most of the day. She had recently begun experimenting with doing her drawings on paper or canvas, and then photographing them. That gave them a whole different "feeling" than something that was built completely from digital pixels. She could then manipulate the image if she needed to, enhancing this or that, or subduing something that was distracting. She'd only sold two of those images so far, but she thought the market was there. Digital constructions were sometimes too clear and perfect. Sometimes you wanted some blur in a picture.

Part of the day she took a break from painting or graphics work, and wrote.

Her stories had gotten longer and longer, and had now progressed to the point she thought of them as books, rather than short stories. Her plots had become more complicated, and her characters more complex. This allowed her illustrations to become more detailed, pertaining to a particular paragraph, perhaps, rather than a whole page of definition. She was almost finished with her longest book yet, and couldn't wait to get it published on Amazon, to see how it would do.

But before she did anything else, she checked her Facebook account, to see if Bob had written anything back to her. She read his message and was strangely delighted that he'd sent it. She had worried that her curt reply to his first one might scare him off. That she didn't want to scare him off confused her. This was new territory for her. She'd never engaged in an "internet friendship" because she'd heard such horror stories about them. Stories about sixty year old perverts abounded. But she also knew two girls personally who had met someone online, and then met them in person and it had worked out just fine. They had told her it was actually easier to get to know someone if you wrote to each other a long time before meeting. Assuming what you wrote was the truth, of course.

And Riley wasn't actually looking to meet any men, on line or otherwise. Still, she was curious about Bob. There was this tug to find out more about him. After all, he'd seen her bare breasts. Wasn't it fair that she got to know something about him too? Like was he married? If he was, she was going to be disgusted. She'd stop all attempts at talking to him if that was the case.

But maybe he wasn't married. He'd said he was a thousand miles away. It wasn't like he was going to show up on her doorstep. She believed his apologies were honest, because he'd been honest about the fact that he'd probably "look" at her again. He could have easily promised he wouldn't do that anymore. She'd never have known if he kept that promise or not. Assuming her picture, sunbathing half naked, didn't show up on the internet somewhere.

But she wasn't worried about that. She didn't know him, but she knew enough about him to make a complaint. His Facebook account could be traced. And she knew some things about him that she couldn't know if her story wasn't true. Plus she had those two letters. Well the original one anyway. Curtis had taken "his letter from Santa" and squirreled it away somewhere. He had, in fact, started a wish list for Christmas. He had her add to it every time they went somewhere. He was eclectic in his desires. He wanted, among other things, an airplane, a police car, everything in Toys R Us, even though he'd never been inside the place, his own ice cream store, and a hat like he'd seen another kid wearing in a car they passed. He couldn't describe it, except to say it was red.

She read his message again. Then she replied to it.

Apology accepted. I've been told I'm irresistible, so I guess I can understand your weakness. Since you're obviously going to ogle me again, we may as well be friends on Facebook. At least for a while. I won't see you, but you might see me around noon, if you have time and are on duty or whatever. Riley

She stared at the words for a long time before she finally decided to push "send." Was she encouraging him? She tried to make the answer "No" in her mind, but common sense laughed at that. Then again, it was harmless.

What she really had trouble justifying in her own mind was that, at noon, while Curtis was taking his after lunch nap, she went out and laid half naked in the sun, looking up at the sky through her sunglasses. The whole situation was so bizarre she had trouble understanding it. She'd been nervous about doing it. Once there, she got excited and couldn't help but rub oil on her breasts over and over. She resisted masturbating, blushing hotly at the thought of him seeing that.

But she couldn't keep her hands off her breasts.

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