Disclaimer: Welcome to the seventh part of Business Trip. The usual disclaimers are in place. *** indicates the use of the song "Sound of Silence", written by Paul Simon and performed by the group Simon and Garfunkel. No copyright infringement is intended. © February 2006.
Language: Well we have a lot of potty language going on in this part. Sorry cussin' happens.
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"I've come to talk to you again,"
"Because the vision softly creeping,"
"Left it's seeds while I was sleeping,"
"And the visions that were planted in my brain,"
"Still remain within the sound of silence."***
From behind closed eyes I sang along with the CD, Simon and Garfunkel's Greatest Hits. I had been playing The Sound of Silence*** over and over again since I got home. The strains of this plaintive song soothed my soul. Its lyrics placated my fevered mind.
"…in the naked light I saw,"
"ten thousand people maybe more,"
"people talking without speaking,"
"People hearing without listening."***
"Yeah, people hearing without listening, isn't that the fucking truth," I groaned as I sat up from my slouched position on the couch. I picked up the bottle of Crown Royal that sat on the coffee table, and drained the last few drops into the short leaded glass tumbler. I looked into the empty bottle. "It's the first dead soldier of the day."
I stood up, granted unsteadily, and headed for the bar at the far end of the living room.
"…no one dared disturb the Sound of Silence…"***
"Hell yeah, can't have that. We can't sisturb the sound of their sstupidity!" I shouted into the empty house before giggling at my own absurdity.
"Here we are." I looked at all the different varieties of liquid refreshment I had behind the well stocked bar. "It's a good thing I throw a lot of parties. It's an even better thing that everyone seems to leave their bottles with me to protect." I snickered. "But I'm afraid I have to send one of you soldiers on a suicide mission. Now I will be asking for volunteers... don't all shump as swonce." I watched. "Alright soldier, if you're that eager, I'll send you on this dangerous mission." I reached in and picked up the bottle and cradled it in my arms.
I giggled. "Hello liquor my old friend… I've come to drink from you again…" I started laughing even harder at my parody while looking down at my next liquid victim. "And though HR is still creeping… grins on their face are shit eating…" Laughter morphing into a snicker. "Isn't it a shame…they ruined my name…" The snickering stalled as my voice faded. "To protect their vows of silence."
A tear slid down my cheek. I swaggered back to the couch and threw myself on the cushions. I ran my fingers through my hair.
What the hell am I going to do now? Fuck, if they wanted to they could throw my ass in jail. What's gonna happen to my kids if that happens? Shit, what am I gonna do?
I filled my glass to the rim with something caramel colored as the Sound of Silence dirge began anew.
Yes sports fans, while I was home feeling sorry for myself, Patty and Jac were busily going over all the invoices, data sheets, and emails associated with my demise.
The following again is what I was told after I sobered up:
"Here it is, Ms. Drakkon!" Patty cried excitedly.
Jac passed from the credenza, where she was reading some papers, to stand behind Patty. Patty was sitting at her desk with a number of the 'questionable' invoices. She had been comparing them to the pages that were in a very large binder. Jac looked over her shoulder.
"You see, I knew these looked familiar. I took care of these personally." Patty pointed out excitedly.
"Yeah, but that may just make their case." Jac sighed.
"How so?" Patty looked at Jac.
"Because they'll come back and say that she put them back through for double billing purposes. That way she skims the second payment and pockets it."
"But that's not what happened. Look here." Patty pointed at the accounting's spread sheets that were laid next to the binder. "See here, this is the invoice that I submitted for payment. There's no where else on these sheets that shows that invoice or amount being paid out."
Jac pick up the papers to take a closer look. "Yes, you're right. There's nothing else on here. But look at this." Jac leaned over and pointed out a line on the sheets. "I bet if you added up all these invoices they would total this amount."
Patty grabbed all the invoices and pulled the adding machine closer to her right hand. At the speed of light she totaled all the invoices. "Yep, the total matches that one allocation. Damn."
"No, it might just work for us. Go ahead and match up the rest of these invoices with your records and then we can see where we are. What about the two employees?"
"You mean Steve and Ed, nothing, nada, nyet. They're ghosts. They're not on my payroll registers for this team. In HR, there are no applications, no resumes, no W-4s, no next of kin, nothing. Just employee numbers, that are falsified of course, and payroll check numbers that have been cashed," Patty answered.
"Damn. That's not so good."
"Maybe it is."
"How so?" Jac asked, cocking her head to one side.
"I do all the payroll. I can guarantee that if you put payroll sheets in front of Kara she would have no idea how to fill it out. If I didn't see these sheets, neither did Kara."
"That's good to know." Jac paused. "Patty can you tell me something?"
"Yeah sure," Patty answered not looking away from the myriad of papers scattered around her desk.
"Why did Kara quit?"
Patty looked up. Green eyes penetrated blue searching for the true meaning of the question.
"I mean why didn't she stay and fight if she knew she was innocent?"
Patty's eyes narrowed with anger at the insinuation that Kara might be guilty after all. "Because that is not who she is," Patty snapped and returned to her papers.
Jac touched her shoulder. Patty looked up at the VP with smoldering eyes. Jac carefully modulated her voice as she tried to defer the admin's ire. "Then tell me who she is."
Jac watched the green eyes soften. Patty motioned her to pull up a chair. Jac grabbed a chair and pulled it closer to Patty.
Patty heaved a sigh before she started, "Kara Marlow is one of the most brilliant women I know, but if something comes at her unexpectly she folds."
"I can't believe that. She works a high stress job where a lot of things can suddenly pop out of the wood work."
"True, but that's work."
"I don't understand," Jac replied her dark brows knitting together.
"It's kinda hard to explain. When it comes to the stress of work, something happening to her friends or family she goes to a different place within herself. She becomes the a different person. All she sees is the goal. After her husband was killed she went into overdrive taking care of the kids, her job while making funeral arrangements, and never shed a tear. I don't think she even started to grieve for two years after his death. When she started to climb the corporate ladder she still wanted to stay obscure. As she says, stay a small target instead of a huge bull's eye. But she couldn't stay in the shadows, she was too good at what she does not to end up in the spot light."
"Ahh, that explains her hesitancy taking this job and the next that was offered," Jac acknowledged. "But that still doesn't explain her quitting."
"The reason she wants to be in the shadows is that she's totally non confrontational. She would rather you break her legs than be in a combative situation. So when she talked to Mr. Kimbrough and all this came out of no where she was put into a fight or flight situation. So she chose...."
"Exactly. Ms. Drakkon, she has no idea how intellegent or how respected she is. So when confronted about an error or an issue that she is the center of she just caves. Now if it came to me, her kids, her friends... even you.. she would fight like a lioness protecting her cubs. But when she's attacked, she'll lay down and die."
"I think I understand," Jac replied.
"Ms. Drakkon, she's one of the most amazing women I have ever known."
Jac placed her hand on Patty's before repeating, "I understand."
"I better get back to these invoices, Ms. Drakkon," Patty said while she held the taller woman's eyes. She felt sure that with her help they would be able to exonerate Kara from any wrong doing.
"Jackie is fine," Jac said, smiling down at the eager blond pit bull. "That's what Bri calls me."
"Jackie it is." Once again she set about matching all the invoices with her records.
The offices fell silent again. The pages turning, and keyboard clicking were the only sounds to break the silence.
After another hour had passed Patty called, "Tim, how you doing in there?"
"Hang on a sec." Tim's voice floated into Patty's office from the open door to Kara's office. "I think I finally found what you're looking for."
Patty and Jac rushed into Kara's office where Tim was ensconced behind the large desk. He had connected his lap top to Kara's desktop, and had been tapping away for what seemed like hours. Both women rounded the desk so they could see Tim's screen.
"See here," Tim said excitedly, pointing at the screen.
"What am I looking at?" Patty asked.
"Oh, sorry. These are all the emails that Kara has ever sent from this machine. What's the date on that one email?"
"Ummm hang on." Patty returned to her desk. She called, "September 8th." She quickly returned with the email copy in her hand. "Tell me it's forgery."
"Ummm..." Tim's eyes squinted as he searched through the columns of data. "And here…" He pointed at one specific line, "is that email that Jamie received?"
Patty slapped Tim in the back of the head.
"Ouch, what the hell was that for?" Tim cried while he rubbed the back of his head.
"YOU JUST PROVED THEIR POINT, YOU BIG GOOBER!" Patty was about to hit him again when he caught her hand. "You were supposed to tell me it wasn't there."
"On the contrary, my dear agitated friend, I have just proved she didn't send it."
"Take a closer look at these entries," Tim said.
"There's no date or time on that one," Jac commented quietly.
"Give that woman a prize. There is no date and time because it was placed there." Tim smiled. He was very proud of himself at that moment.
"I don't understand." Patty was confused. What did having no date or time stamps have to do with anything?
"Now pay close attention." Using the cursor he walked Patty and Jac through why this was a good thing. "You can clearly see here and here that each email Kara sent has a date and time stamp on it with the exception of this one." He pointed again at the fateful email. "The date and time stamps are put in automatically every time you send or receive an email. When you go through the back door to insert an email, it won't have a date or time stamp. It can't because it wasn't sent from this computer."
"Is that what happened with the email to Dennis?" Jac asked.
"Yep." Tim quickly clicked a number of keys and before our eyes the dates of the email sent to Dennis appeared on the screen. Again it was the only one without a date or time stamp present.
"I'll be damned. Can you tell where they did come from? I mean where they were sent from?"
"Yeah, I should be able to," Tim said. "Let me just get onto the network." Tim's eyebrows furrowed as he clicked rapidly from one screen to the next. Deeper and deeper into cyberspace he moved with every key stroke.
Without pausing his typing, he asked, "What were those dates again?"
Patty repeated both dates and times.
"Ok." He picked up his Nextel. "Sharon?"
"Yes." The phone crackled to life.
"Can you tell me where T187985 is located?"
Holding the phone near his face he waited. Suddenly the speaker crackled to life. "The video conference room."
"Thanks." Tim shrugged. "That's no help. Anyone and their brother could've used that computer."
"Damn it. Who could do something like this?" Patty asked.
"The bigger question is the why?" Jac replied.
"I know who and I know the person behind the why," Tim said turning his chair to face both the dumbfounded women squarely.
Patty slapped his shoulder again. "And just when were you going to share this information?"
"Pat, you need to stop hitting me or I'm going to sick John on you."
"Sorry, now spill."
"The who is Gary. The person behind the why is Russell Davies."
"Gods I should have known. That snake. But I didn't think he would stoop this low," Patty cried stomping around the room.
Not letting emotions carry her away, Jac asked the pointed question of, "Tim how do you know all this?"
"The day of the deluge, you know, the day that we played dress up?" Tim started.
"Yeah I remember," Patty answered.
"Dress up?" Jac chimed in.
"I'll tell you later. Go on Tim."
"Well, I heard their voices coming out the server area. I stood in the shadows, and listened to their little drama. Russell apparently had cooked up this whole scheme to discredit Kara and get her ass fired." Tim paused. "Has the moral turpitude come up yet?"
"Moral turpitude… what?" Patty was so confused that she didn't know night from day at this point.
"Yeah sorry, Ms. Drakkon, but I did see them messing around with some of the emails between you and Kara. The rewording they did left little to the imagination. Guess Russ wanted to bring you down with her. Ya know the way he hates women you would think he'd be hanging out at some leather bar waiting for his prince to ride up on a Harley and sweep his skinny ass away." Tim ended with a flare.
Jac was silent, her jaws clenching and unclenching. Tim and Patty watched her anger build in a frightened silence.
Every body hit the deck!!!! INCOMING!!! Patty thought too frightened to even breathe much less say anything.
They both watched Ms. Drakkon take a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Ok, we'll deal with that if and when it comes out. For now let's start with motive. Patty, can you tell me why Mr. Davies would go through all this intrigue in order to get Kara fired?"
"Jamestown was his baby to begin with. He made a total mess out of it, and expected Kara to bail him out. When she refused the job he went to Mr. Kimbrough to complain. Mr. Kimbrough turned the tables on him, and not only gave Kara the project to do but she would get all the commissions. That hit Mr. Davies not only in his pride, but in his wallet," Patty explained.
"Well, we have motive. Now what were the means?"
"I can take that one," Tim offered. "He bribed Gary into doing his computer magic to plant all the embezzlement evidence in her computer. Gary probably put the virus on Kara's computer in order to be able to get his hands on it. He copied all her correspondence, and everything else he needed from the network and transferred it to a new hard drive. When her computer was in the lab all he had to do was replace Kara's hard drive with the one he put all the incriminating data on. He waited until they were going to lower the boom on Kara to return the computer."
"Why wait?" Jac asked.
"Because he knew they would walk Kara out. Once she was gone, the computer wouldn't be touched until the investigators came to look at what she had saved on the hard drive. By then it would be too late to refute anything that they would find. Remember computers don't make mistakes," Tim answered somewhat gravely.
"That's not completely true," Patty replied before turning to walk out to her office. After a short pause Tim and Jac followed. She walked over to a book shelf and pointed at five, four inch thick binders all labeled Jamestown Project. "What neither Russell nor Gary could know is I keep all the correspondence for every project we do in hard copy form just in case something happened to Kara's computer. That's why, even without her computer, she was able to complete the project and go to the meetings with all her information intact. Another thing that neither of those scum bags would know is I take care of all of Kara's emails personally."
Jac fidgeted slightly upon hearing this information. Kara noticed this and said, "Well except for your correspondence, Ms. Drakkon. I let Kara handle those herself." Kara marked a definitely more relaxed posture from Jackie when she had made that last statement. "But in these binders is every email, minutes from every meeting, the budget, the team members, the invoices, and all the schedules down to every time Kara went to the ladies' room."
"Wow, that's impressive. So you're like the woman behind the power?" Tim teased.
"Naaa, I am the power too." They all laughed at that last comment. That little bit of levity drove away the menacing spirits that had inhabited these offices.
Wiping the tears from her blue eyes, Jac continued, "Well now that we know the motive and the method, we have to find the money."
"The money, damn. I know for sure she doesn't have it."
"How do you know that for sure?" Tim asked.
"See that blue binder?" Jac and Tim both nodded. "That's her checking account ledger. Yes gang, this woman is brilliant at engineering, managing, and customer service but she can't balance a check book or put together a house hold budget to save her life."
Everyone erupted in laughter once again.
"I think we're all getting punchy. We've been at this for hours, but we're almost home. If the checks didn't come here, they had to have gone where?" Jac asked. She needed this last piece to fall into place before she would call Jason on the carpet.
"I have no clue," Patty said regretfully.
They were all silent for awhile before Tim spoke up. "Wait. I think I've got it." He paused to be sure he had everyone's attention. "In IS we kept getting Sandra Reilly's mail. You can't imagine how much mail that woman gets a day, it was becoming a real hassle to get it all to her."
"What does Sandra Reilly's mail have to do with anything?" Patty sneered.
"Nothing, but the fact that her inner office address is one digit off from ours has everything to do with it," Tim offered.
Patty looked at him blankly for a second then went to her desk, picked up her phone, and pressed in a four digit number. "Jamie? Hey how's it going?"
"Cool, can you do me a favor?" Pause. "Can you tell me what address number you're using for Ms. Marlow's office? The idiots in the mail room seem to delivering her inner office anywhere they please."
"Uh huh, yeah. Can you repeat that again? 587.7. Yeah that's right, just wanted to confirm it with you. Thanks."
"So what does 587.7 mean?" Tim asked totally confused.
"It means we're heading down to the mail room to find out exactly where 587.7 is."
The three crime stoppers stood impatiently at the closed door of the Mail Room. Hearing no sounds from within Patty buzzed again.
"Keep your shirt on I'm coming." A scratchy voice sounded from the other side of the door. Suddenly the top half of the door swung open. On the other side of the door a grimy older man stood. His thin hair was receding, but that was much less noticeable than his bulbous nose. He had half a sandwich in one hand, and was scratching his protruding stomach with the other.
"Wow, isn't he attractive," Tim whispered into Patty's ear.
"What can I help you with?" he asked with a pronounced gravely tone.
A rabies shot, Patty thought at first. "I need to know what office stop 587.7 is?"
Leeringly he looked Patty up and down, then Jac, before training his sight on Tim and chuckling. "Look little lady, I can't give that information to just anyone."
Before Patty could respond, Jac strolled up to the door flashing her badge. "I believe I'm not just anyone."
The man eyes grew large as he read the name and title off the badge. He immediately put his sandwich down, wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, and dusted off his stained tee-shirt before answering. "Ms. Drakkon, anything you want to know…"
"I want to know where 587.7 is," Ms. Drakkon snarled into his pudgy face.
He reached for a book that resided on the shelf next to the door. He muttered 587.7 over and over until he found it. "Here it is, it's in the exec's wing, office number 718."
"Thank you." Jac turned away with Patty and Tim following close behind.
They entered the closest elevator. Tim pushed 7 and up they went.
They road in silence knowing that their quest would soon be over. It was a satisfying, as well as a frightening, moment knowing that in a few minutes they would come face to face with the perpetrator of this travesty. They had unraveled the mystery, and it was now time to confront Mr. Davies.
But you know, when a snake is cornered it will strike. So it was killed or be killed.
Without a word passing between them, they exited the elevator. Patty could feel her heart pounding in her ears. Slowly almost tentatively Patty walked down the hall behind Jackie and Tim. Each walked down the long corridor noting the numbers on each door.
When they came to 718 they were all shocked. Seven eighteen was Jason Kimbrough's office.
To Be Continued in Part 8
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