Even if I live forever, I will never cease to be amazed at how quickly a person's fortunes can change. A week ago, I was happy as a clam. My two kids are both in college and doing well. My wife, Donna, teaches third grade at a local school. She's had the same job since she graduated from college 22 years ago. She's blonde, smart, sexy, funny, beautiful, well... you get the idea.
We were married the summer Donna finished college. I have never regretted my marriage, not even for a minute. I don't really know why she picked me when she could have any man she wanted, but I'm not complaining. Donna is a wonderful mother and is pretty much responsible for how well our kids turned out.
I work for Art & Paul's Old Fashioned Soda Company. Don't feel bad if you've never heard of it. It's a family company started by two brothers in a garage in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, in1963. No one seems to know exactly where, or how, they developed their formula, but there is no better carbonated soft drink on the planet
The company stayed pretty much a part-time garage business until the early seventies. The demand for their product kept increasing and eventually they moved the business to a bigger building. Today, they have 450 employees and have resisted any further expansion. The family feels it would lose control of the quality of their product if they went "big time".
A few weeks ago, Time Magazine ran an article about the family and the soda they make. I now suspect that story was the catalyst for all my recent problems.
The magazine made a big deal out of how closely the original family formula was guarded. Near the end of the story, my name was mentioned as the guy in charge of security for the company. I had worked for Art and Paul since I got out of the army in 1985. I worked my way up the ladder and three years ago I was named head of security.
The title sounds good, but the truth is security was never much of an issue, at least not until that damn magazine story. It made our soda sound like the best thing since toilet paper, and that the secret formula is worth millions. Looking at it now, I guess it probably is.
When the story hit the newsstands, interest in our product and how it was made picked up noticeably. Suddenly, my job wasn't so cushy. It became evident that we needed to increase the measures in place to protect the formula.
To that end, I found myself in Las Vegas last week for a trade show on anything, and everything, a company could ever need to ward off corporate spying and espionage. I felt a little like James Bond with Q. That was the guy with inventions, wasn't it? I did pick up some very helpful ideas and even ordered some equipment and software for the company.
The last day of the show was Saturday. By Saturday evening, I was mentally exhausted from trying to absorb so much information. I was sitting at the hotel bar, nursing a beer and unwinding. I expected nothing and was just relaxing.
Then I heard someone sit on the seat next to me and I turned my head casually to look that way. I almost fell off my stool! Next to me was a beautiful redhead in a short dress with a low top. Her breasts formed an incredible valley a man could gaze at all night. I guess I was doing exactly that.
"Are you going to spent all night starring at the twins, or are you going to buy a girl a drink?" she asked me while flashing a beautiful smile.
I managed to pull my tongue in and called the bartender over. I bought her a drink and ordered another beer for myself. That was Saturday. Just three days later, I found myself fighting for my career.
I had arrived home Sunday afternoon and was back at work Monday morning. Tuesday morning found me in my office, trying to prepare a report to the board of directors for the afternoon meeting. I noticed an email from a hotmail account come across my monitor. The sender had the username "Bestfriend" and there were attachments. It piqued my curiosity, so I opened he email.
There was a very brief message consisting of two sentences. I sat there and read it at least a dozen times. It didn't make much sense, but I knew it would be very important to me.
The message read, "Drive to Casey Park at noon and park next to the black Lincoln near the playground. If you don't, these pictures will be emailed to your boss, wife, kids, parents, and numerous community leaders."
It was with more than a little trepidation that I began to open the attached pictures. My stomach immediately knotted up and I felt nauseous. Somehow, someone had managed to take pictures of me with the redhead. The first picture showed us at the bar. Anyone can take a picture in a public place. It was the photos that followed that made my head spin.
They were taken in my hotel room and were quite explicit. First, I got mad. How the hell could those pictures be taken in a private room? It was a violation of my rights. Whoever took them broke numerous laws! Then my thoughts changed direction and all I could think about was what Donna would say if she found out about the pictures! Even worse, what if her parents and our kids saw them?
My mind began to understand the situation into which I had been plunged. I was obviously being threatened. If pictures of a naked redhead sucking my cock got out, my life could be turned to shit! To make things worse, if that was possible, there were several even more incriminating pictures. The one of me eating her bald pussy came out especially well. I could even make out several big freckles on her tits in the picture where she was riding me like a cowgirl! I really didn't want the boss, the kids, and especially Donna, to ever know those pictures even existed!
Art and Paul Simon were rather religious men. Everyone that worked for them had a morality clause in their contract. More than a few people had been terminated over the years for conduct detrimental to the company. Some had been caught in workplace affairs, some had stolen from the company, and one guy was fired for repeatedly lying about being ill when he was actually fishing.
The rumor was that before he canned him, Art told the man he could understand him going fishing rather than going to work. Art had been known to take a few afternoons off in trout season himself. He just couldn't tolerate the man lying about it.
As I mulled my situation over, I decided I needed to come up with a plan for damage control. Why were the pictures taken? Why were they emailed to me? Why was I told to drive to the park? How could I put a good spin on the situation? How do you shine shit?
There could only be one reason for my current situation, at least that I could think of. That reason was the fucking formula I was employed to protect. It had to be at the core of this shitstorm I was suddenly facing. I would probably be blackmailed into revealing it. The one big problem with that was that I had no idea what the concoction was. Hell, I drank beer.
I did have access, as security chief, to every part of the facility! A guy smarter than I, but with my ability to get into the more closely guarded areas, could probably hack into the computers, or the fucking shoebox, in which the secret was stored. That had to be the reason my life was circling the drain!
I checked my watch and realized I had to leave within the hour to reach the park by noon. I hated to do it, but I picked up my phone and called Art Simon and quickly arranged a meeting with him and Paul.
It was exactly noon when I pulled into the park and stopped next to a black Lincoln. Two men were sitting in the car, apparently waiting for me. The guy is the passenger seat got out and held the door, indicating with a nod that he wanted me to get into the car. As I climbed it, I looked both men over. I had never seen either man before.
"It was smart of you to show up," asserted the man behind the wheel. "I have my laptop ready to send off pictures to every family member, friend, superior, and associate you ever had. I picked this spot because I can pick up wi-fi from that hotel across the street. All I have to do is hit the "enter" key and the shit hits the fan for you."
"Let's cut to the chase," I snapped. "What will it take to keep those pictures private?"
"I like your attitude, Benson," chuckled the prick. "This has been so easy. You're a security expert like a woodpecker is a carpenter! I had a hooker hired to fuck your brains out Saturday night and you went and picked that redhead up and fucked her before my girl got there. That saved me a couple hundred bucks, and the bitch you nailed was a lot better than the one I had for you. The pictures turned out quite well, don't you think?"
"Let's just get this over with," I insisted. "Do you want money for that computer? I'll need to know there aren't any more hard drives with those files on them."
"I want money, alright," laughed the man. "The problem is you don't have any where near enough. I want you to give my friend in the back your ID card and the code you use to get into the more sensitive areas of your company."
"What? You think I'll give you that? If they find out I gave it to you, I'll be fired and probably sued and who knows what else? I can't do that," I stated firmly.
"No problem, Benson," grinned the miserable fuck. "I'll just hit this key and you'll be in a world of shit so fast your head will spin!"
"Just a minute!" I shrieked. "When do you want the code and my ID?"
"Right now, dip-shit!" he snarled. "We're not going to give you a chance to fuck this up. Give it to him now and we'll wait here till he gets back. If everything goes okay, I'll give you this laptop and you'll never see us again. Your family will never find out what a fucking sex fiend you are and we'll all be happy."
"He can't just walk into the place even if you have the code," I warned. "He'll be seen and there are security cameras everywhere. It won't work."
"That would usually be the case," agreed my blackmailer, "but on the first Tuesday of the month, the people in the office are required to meet with the bosses in the conference room and discuss strategy and marketing for the next month. Between the hours of one and two, the place will be empty except for the guy watching the monitors. He's dumber than a fucking stick. My friend will be in and out before he figures out what the hell is happening."
I turned to look at the guy's partner in the back seat. He was grinning from ear to ear as he held up an old Richard Nixon mask. I realized the cameras would record Tricky Dicky and be of little help. I pulled out my ID card and handed it to the guy as I told him the code number.
The guy got out of the car, walked across the street, climbed into a Nissan Sentra and drove off. I sat with my blackmailer and waited. He held his finger lightly on the enter key all the time. It was almost as nerve-wracking as sitting with a goddamn suicide bomber.
It was almost an hour later when the car returned. The guy was grinning from ear to ear as he strode back to the Lincoln.
"I've got it!" he exclaimed. "These hicks are fucking idiots. Let's get this back to the boss."
"You have what you want, so hand over the computer," I demanded as I reached for the laptop.
"Oops!" laughed the bastard as he hit the key deliberately. "That's a shame. I guess you won't need my laptop now. The damage is already done, Asshole!"
I debated smacking the shit out of the guy when his pal opened my door and flashed a knife. He gestured for me to get out. I carefully stepped out of the car, closely watching the guy wielding the knife.
He slammed the door closed and hurried back to the Nissan and climbed in. The two cars quickly drove off. I debated jumping in front of them, not to stop them, but to end the nightmare I was in. I had foolishly hoped the prick would keep his end of the agreement and not send the pictures. Now I had to face the music!
By the time I got back to my office, I could see the big turbine of life was really spinning fast and waste material was flying everywhere, especially in my face. The internet is much faster than my old Jeep.
Gloria, Art's secretary, called soon after I entered my office. I got along with her pretty good. She had always enjoyed chatting with Donna at company functions, as well. I could tell from her voice that she was concerned for me.
"Dan, your attendance in the board room is requested. I'm afraid it may involve the pictures that were emailed to every member of the board a little while ago," she added. "I don't like to judge, but I can't believe you would do this to your marriage. Donna loves you so much!"
"I guess that's my problem, Gloria. I think she loves me too much. Certainly, it's way more than I deserve. I'll be right up," I told her.
I had to pass by Gloria's desk to go into the board room. She was waiting for me when I entered the office. She flagged me down and motioned me toward a chair.
"They told me to ask you to wait here, Dan. They'll send for you soon," she promised. "Do I know your lady friend?"
I looked up at Gloria and could see the picture of me being ridden by the cowgirl on her monitor. She had enlarged the pictures so the redhead's face and upper body filled the screen. The woman riding me in the photo had red hair strewn across her face, so only her smile showed. I had to admit that she did have a big smile! Good cowgirls moved around a lot and couldn't be worried about their coiffure.
"Do you spend much time in Vegas, Gloria?" I asked. "If not, it's unlikely that you would know her."
I had to sit and cool my heels for almost half an hour. Gloria seemed to enjoy the photos. She looked at each one of them several times. Then she picked up the phone and called someone. I realized this was just too good for her to resist. She was probably calling her friends and neighbors to tell them about the great porn she had received and would be sending to the few people in the world that hadn't yet seen the pictures. As I waited, my mood got darker and darker.
Finally, Gloria was buzzed and she turned to me.
"You can go in now, Dan. Good luck, and don't take any shit from them!" she added as I opened the door.
I was wondering about her statement a little as I walked into the room. I soon pushed it from my thoughts when I saw the mood of the group. There were seven people on the board. Art and Paul were there, of course. The rest, except one, were family members. Paul's wife had passed away a few years prior, and was replaced on the board by her daughter, Gwen. Art's wife, Mildred, sat to his left. The others were Art's son, Paul's son, and the company CFO, Bob Robinson.
"Dan, we've asked you here today to hear your explanation for these pictures and for the blackmail mess that ensued," stated Art. "We want to hear your side of the story before we make any decisions."
I looked each person in the eye before I framed my answer. I always heard it's best to make these things personal, just like a defendant looking at the jurors.
"I came to you as soon as I realized there would be a blackmail attempt, as you know, Art. I helped devise a plan very quickly that should enable the company to not only retain it's secret to success, but to find out who was behind the attempted theft," I responded.
"That part went very well, Dan," agreed Art. "We've already received a couple reports from the firm you that recommended. They are following these thugs as we speak. The moron stole my wife's recipe for a rather bitter drink she likes to serve during the Christmas holidays. The problem at the moment is what you did to set yourself up to be blackmailed. These pictures are very disturbing. You are a married man and you were in Vegas representing this company."