Chapter 47 - Promotion p1
It was all wrong, so very wrong.
I stared at the lines of code on the screen while absently fiddling with the smooth crystal around my neck. At this point I either had to tell somebody or quit my job, the truth was undeniable. I glanced over my shoulder toward Alex who was twisting one pink lock of hair in her fingers while her other hand danced across the keyboard.
“If she knew what I knew.” I thought and looked back to the screen.
She did know, that was the whole problem. She had written this damnable program, could she be using it? I shutdown my computer and slowly walked down the hall toward Lisa's office. "Do it now, before you lose your nerve." I whispered low enough for no one to hear.
A quick knock on the office door brought an equally quick reply. "Come in."
I stuck my head inside and looked around. Save for Lisa the office was empty. "Do you have a minute?"
She noticed my look and raised one eyebrow in curiosity. "Sure Jack, business or personal?" Lisa asked.
"Business." I answered and absently fingered the smooth crystal collar. Polly made it plain to me in the days since her birthday party that it was in fact a collar.
"It's nearly invisible unless you play with it like that." Lisa said. "I'm surprised you are wearing it still."
"Oh, uh..." I quickly dropped my hands to my sides. "I can't take it off myself."
"It's permanent?" Lisa said obviously surprised.
"No, Polly has taken it off several times, even showed me the mechanism but for the life of me I can't seem to make it work. It's weird."
Lisa pursed her lips and smiled. "Polly enjoys that I'd imagine."
"She does. She really does." I keenly remembered the delight in Polly's eyes as I struggled with the devious collar for over an hour before finally admitting defeat.
"Well, like I said, if you don't play with it no one will notice." Lisa finished.
This was true only for most people. The Monday after the birthday party I had met April Dawson in the foyer of the office and the "necklace" was the first thing she mentioned. Oddly though, no one else noticed. It took two days for Alex to say anything and I had been fiddling with it constantly. "So how can I help you?" Lisa said indicating the chair in front of her desk.
I took a deep breath and concentrated. "A week ago or so I was looking around our code repository and..."
"What's a code repository?" Lisa interrupted.
"Oh sorry. That's the place where we keep all our software and all the previous versions, it's a storage system."
Lisa made a circular gesture for me to continue.
"I was digging around in there and came across a directory named with random capital letters. Inside I found a program that had not been touched in several years." I paused and took another deep breath. "That program was written to modify the accounts payable and receivable databases and also had permission to both credit and debit the business accounts."
"Is that unique?" Lisa asked.
"No, we write many programs like that for accounting. But this one made very minor changes to hundreds of transactions and changed the amounts on almost everything. It was not a lot but it could add up depending on how many times it’s run."
Lisa's eyes flared in understanding and she leaned forward in her desk. "You would not be here if this were just an experiment or some old testing."
I nodded. "It was last run on Monday. I saw the updates in the databases, you would never notice unless you were watching for them."
"Alex?" Lisa guessed.
"She definitely wrote it, no one else has the knowledge, I don't know if she is running it. I can't believe..."
"How much money?" Lisa interrupted.
"It's not possible for me to know because it would depend on how many transactions are active in the system at the time and their value." I answered.
"You said it skims off funds?" Lisa continued the interrogation.
"Yes. It is designed to hide the money."
"Where does it go?"
I leaned to one side and pulled out a folded sticky note from in my pocket. "This is the account number. It was hard coded into the program. It has not been changed for 6 years."
Lisa looked at the number and grabbed her phone. "Hey Stan I need you to check the owner of a bank account for me." Lisa waited a moment and the read off the number. "Ok, call me when you find out."
Lisa turned her attention back to me. "How sure are you about all of this?"
"I have been studying this thing for a week. You could ask Alex, but if I'm right..." I shook my head. "Look she can't be the one running it. Maybe she was forced."
The phone rang and Lisa grabbed the receiver. "McGentry." She said into the phone. Her face began to pale and she slowly lowered the receiver back to the cradle.
"What is it?" I said becoming alarmed at her obvious fear.
Lisa shook her head. "The less you know the better, but go find Polly and stay with her. This is big Jack. Don't talk to anybody from work. Stay at my house, I want to know where you are at all times. Go." The last word was issued with the strength of a command.
I fled the office to the sound of Lisa yelling for her assistants. I walked directly to the elevator and when it would not arrive fast enough I used the stairs. By the time Polly's house was in view the pressure behind my eyes had blossomed into a mammoth migraine. Polly opened the front door when I reached for the handle. She wore a pair of off black cotton leggings with a light blue, short-sleeved tunic which was thin enough to hint at the bra she wore beneath. Polly's Outfit
She took one look and pulled me inside. "Mom called, what's going on? She sounded scared." Polly said while leading me to the couch.
"Argh. This damn headache." I said pushing on my temples with my palms.
"Here, lay down. Put your head on my lap." Polly said pulling my body onto the couch and gently pressing my head onto her lap. She slowly began to massage my temples. "Now take your time and tell me what happened?"
"I've been studying this program at work. I figured out that it is probably being used to embezzle money from the company. I told your Mom today. I never knew where the money was going but it took Lisa less than a minute to figure that out."
"Oh dear. It must be someone big for her to send you home."
"I feel sick. Alex wrote the program. I just don't understand why?"
"Alex is the programmer lady that taught you?"
"Yeah, she's so young too. This could ruin her." I answered.
"Young?" Polly said. "I thought she was older than Mom."
"No, twenties, maybe early thirties, but I doubt it." I answered.
"Is she cute?" Polly said.
My eyes shot open and I stared into Polly's jealous eyes. "Polly, I don't even know. I met her after I met you."
The answer must have been correct because her hand slipped around my neck and began to slide inside the collar of my shirt. "You did nothing wrong. Don't worry about it."
I snorted. "I could have done lots of things, chief among them talked to Alex, my mentor, before ratting her out to Lisa." I shook my head and sat up from Polly's lap. "God, I feel so helpless."
I began to pace through the living room. My rational mind was clearly informing me my actions had been correct but I was terrified for Alex. "What if she gets put in jail? It will be my fault."
"Jack sit down. This is not your fault." Polly said crossing her arms beneath her breasts.
"I can't sit. I need to do something. Maybe I should call Alex and let her know what I did. She could explain..."
"No." Polly said. "Mom wants you away from this and I agree with her. You are being irrational."
"Irrational!" I said my voice rising. "Alex is in trouble and it's my fault. I could help her."
Polly stood up and grabbed my arm to stop my frenetic pacing. "Stop Jack, you can't save everybody."
"I have to try." I closed my eyes and groaned. "I need to try."
I felt Polly's hands on my face and I opened my eyes. Her fiery green eyes were filled with compassion. "Not this time. Follow me I have something that will help."
I followed Polly up the stairs unable, even in my distress, to keep my eyes away from her amazing legs. She pulled me into her room and pushed me onto the bed my head narrowly missing the metal footboard. "Now let me take your mind off of things." Polly straddled my chest pinning both my arms to my sides.
"I don't feel like playing." I said struggling to free my arms.
"Oh really." Polly's fingers slid along my neck and tugged at the crystal collar pulling me toward her moist lips. Her tongue plunged into my mouth and danced across my lips. Polly moaned as if she were tasting the finest honey.
It was all a ruse though, a distraction. Polly released the collar and suddenly I felt my neck pulled to the side and a familiar ratcheting sounded near my right ear. Polly rolled off my body freeing my hands. I tried to sit up but the crystal collar yanked at my neck holding me down. I felt around the implacable crystal rope and discovered a plastic band, a zip tie, connecting the collar to the wrought iron footboard. "Hey." I tugged and the next word came out as a wheeze as the collar briefly squeezed my throat.
"Relax Jack. It's not tight if you don't struggle." Polly stated.
I moved as close to the foot board as possible and slowly rotated my head to look at Polly who had just finished placing a familiar black duffel bag near the head of the bed. "What are you doing?"
"I'm keeping you from doing something stupid. No dashing off without thinking today." Polly answered pulling long lengths of rope and scarves from the bag.
"Please Polly, I can help her."
Polly's eyes flared into twin suns of green fire. "No you can't. Not everybody can be saved, I don't care what overdeveloped sense of knighthood you seem to have. Not every woman who gets in trouble is a damsel in distress. Whatever Alex did is not your problem and you aren't going anywhere near her until I hear from Mom. It might be you that ends up in jail, and I'll be damned if that is going to happen to you."
I yanked at the zip tie holding my neck. I tugged until my fingers burned. I looked back to Polly who was staring at me. "Please Polly."
Ignoring the words Polly stepped closer. "Let go Jack, this is beyond your control."
"Only because you’re keeping me here."
Polly shrugged. "I don't want to fight, but you are going to be tied up in a neat little package whether you like it or not. I will let you control how severe it's going to be."
I looked at her without speaking still hoping for a way to escape the situation and help Alex, at least to vouch for her kindness and intelligence.
"Do exactly as I say, and we might have a fun afternoon." Polly said with a hopeful smile.
I was in no mood for games and even though her whole posture dripped with delightful promises I looked away and continued to jerk at the stubborn zip tie that trapped my neck.
Polly stepped to the end of the bed holding out a pair of white satin panties. "Put these in your mouth, talking is not required."
In a fit of pique I snatched the silky underwear and tossed them across the room.
"Tsk, tsk. That will cost you." Polly retrieved the panties and stood near my legs which were bent at the knees to keep them from dangling painfully from the edge of the mattress. "Take off your shoes."
Anger and frustration are not a good combination for intelligent decisions. "No."
"Again, that will cost you." Polly stated flatly
"Polly if you love me, you will let me go."
Quick as thought Polly jumped onto the bed and yanked my hands from my trapped neck pinning them to the mattress with her knees. "If I love you!" Polly screamed. "If I love you. You ass, how dare you say that to me."
Terror washed over me. Polly had been angry before but this was something new. I tried to respond but Polly's hand pressed down hard over my mouth pressing my head deep into the soft mattress.
"Listen to me, Jack." She bit off my name as if it were a curse. "There is a McGentry in control at your office and there is a McGentry in control here. You are not." Polly glared at me for long moments and then slowly slid off my body. "And if you love me Jack, when I come back you better be chewing on these panties." She threw the silk garment within reach of my fingers. "And your shoes better be off. I'm going to go cool down before I do something I regret."