After Reese's appearance in my office as the Omniscient Software's representative, I was shaken. Well, maybe not shaken enough to refuse sex with Lore and Justine, but certainly upset. However she infiltrated or compromised IT upper management, the results would be catastrophic. Every major system and most of the minor ones would be impacted if we went ahead and implemented Omniscient's products. And it was pretty clear that no one from the user community had reviewed what it would do to existing functionality. In the best case, there would be complete disruption. In the worst case, the company would implode from a system's perspective.
When I got to the office Tuesday morning, I tightened my belt a notch and went to Tashun's office. His secretary, an older woman, told me he was not to be disturbed. I went in anyway despite her shouts and a feeble attempt to hold me back by my suit coat sleeve after lunging across her desk.
I pulled free and opened the door. Tashun was doing a crossword puzzle. He looked up with a mean stare. "I wasn't to be disturbed."
"This Omniscient Software fiasco doesn't disturb you?" I remained standing.
He leaned back. The chair tilted but remained stable. "What was I supposed to do? I told you, Hunter himself signed off on the contract. I didn't get a copy in advance, or I would have passed it to legal. Standard protocol."
Too bad the dummy didn't think past his nose about the impact. At least Tashun knew what standard protocol was. "So what are we supposed to do? Just let Hunter disrupt the whole operation?"
He aimed his pencil at me. "Do you have a better idea?"
I thought for a moment. "What do you think he gets out of this? Some kind of kickback?"
"Hunter?" Tashun shook his head. "He's too smart for that. And too close to retirement."
"But there has to be something in it for him, to take the risk." I plopped down in Tashun's visitor chair, even though I hadn't been invited to stay. I hadn't been thrown out either.
"Maybe he sees no risk. Thinks of himself as a short-timer." Tashun scribbled something on the paper, scowled and erased it.
This was the first time Tashun and I had a serious chat that didn't involve shouting or accusations of each other. Maybe Hunter was our only safe topic. "Okay, then what's the upside? What kind of perk or advantage does he get out of this?"
Tashun scratched his head with the pencil. "Maybe a well-paid do-nothing position at Omniscient after he retires? That's what I'd shoot for." He stared at the crossword, a different puzzle from the one I was trying to solve. "He's only about a year or so from retirement, if he goes at the earliest opportunity."
"By then, the whole place will be a shambles."
Tashun didn't seem to be worried. "Hunter is ultimate corporate politician. He'll give a great speech, wave and smile at his send-off, and move on with a nice pension and a comfy executive suite at Omniscient."
Tashun was still missing the point. "And at the same time, the user departments will be calling for our heads. You and me, Dick. The shit will hit the fan and we'll take the bulk of it. No, we have to stop this now, before it starts."
Tashun seemed weary, beaten down, and completely disinterested in anything but his crossword puzzle. "Well, we can't unsign the contract, and the penalty clause is full payment. So we should just bite the bullet and install the software as long as we're paying for it. You'll figure it out. Hunter trusts you."
I noticed that he said 'Hunter' and not 'I.' Tashun's spite was leaking out, poisoning his decisions. Shit, I would have given him back his bonus if he'd only gotten his mind right. Our conversation was about to become normal, with me screaming. I took a deep breath. "But the cost doesn't end there. Interfaces will need to be built at Omniscient's boundaries. There will be new training required, and new operational procedures-"
For the first time, my comments furrowed Tashun's brow. "Weren't those part of the contract?" He pulled open drawer after drawer, looking for his copy of the document.
"I know you didn't sign the contract, but didn't you read it? It says Omniscient will consult for free on interfaces and documentation, but that the client, that's us, bears the cost of design, development, testing, training, and operations. That basically triples the cost, or worse. And how will your budget take an impact like that?"
Tashun pushed the last open drawer shut. "We'll just charge those costs to the user departments-"
"Who didn't ask for this, didn't approve it, and didn't have any say in the matter whatsoever?" I couldn't help but raise my voice. "That will never fly, and you know it. If we let this go, we're cooked. I don't know about you, but I just got back to a Director position and I'm not going to let Hunter or anyone else fuck it up." I hadn't intended on using the word 'fuck' - it sort of slipped out.
"Fuck, huh?" Tashun scratched his head, this time with his index finger. "Reese probably seduced him. It was a miracle of self-control that kept you off of her yesterday. Didn't know you had it in you."
I didn't tell him I was almost caught with my cock firmly planted inside her. "Yeah, self control." Maybe Tashun had been joking, but I believed he was close to the truth. "Whatever Hunter did, we need him to admit it and then share his confession with the Board. They'll toss his ass out and cancel the contract. There is a propriety clause we can probably make stick. Evidently, Omniscient was founded by some evangelical organizations, kind of a money laundering, but legal. They'll void the contract rather than take the bad publicity."
Tashun put down the crossword and folded his arms. "And how are you going to get him to confess? Escort him up to the executive suite and beat him until he fesses up?"
I thought about what Hunter's secretary said, the one with the pointy tits. "He's vulnerable, just like the general in A Few Good Men. He wants to tell somebody he screwed the company." And Reese. "I just need to give him the opportunity."
"And then what? You'll have Ms. Ryder take it all down in shorthand?"
I didn't think she even knew shorthand, except maybe giving old Hunter a hand job occasionally. I thought about Zenellis and Reese, both attempting blackmail with recordings. "No, I'm going to record him." I'd brought some of Lore's surveillance equipment to work to use on Reese. "I'll take the risk of getting caught, but if I get a confession, I need to know you'll back me up. Do I have your word?" I stuck out my hand. Tashun squirmed in his heavily padded chair. I didn't think he was on board when suddenly, his eyes went wide as he jumped from the chair and shook my hand with both of his. "Let's get the old son of a bitch. Maybe they'll promote me as a result."
No surprise, Tashun was in this for his own advancement. That didn't matter, as long as I could trust him for support. After the handshake, I counted my fingers.
I fetched a microphone, a recorder and a small roll of duct tape from my briefcase and entered a bathroom stall. In private, I taped the wires to my bare skin. The microphone was connected behind my necktie, and the recorder clipped to the back of my suit pants, covered by my suit jacket. I dabbed perspiration from my forehead and took the elevator upstairs.
I hadn't been upstairs very often, but I remembered the route on my most recent visit when Lorraine Ryder, Hunter's secretary, took me up to his office. We'd stopped for a bit of kiss and grope in the supplies room. I hoped I wouldn't get an erection from seeing her again, but those horizontal peaks were a real turn-on.
Looking for Lorraine, I overshot Hunter's office. I backed up and saw his nameplate on the wall. A small thin girl who appeared to be under aged occupied Lorraine's chair. Where was Lorraine? On a break? In the bathroom, or had she grabbed some unsuspecting soul and taken him into the supply room for a quickie?
I guessed the age of the girl in Lorraine's chair at maybe fourteen. "Hi, when will Ms. Ryder be back?"
"Oh, she's not here anymore. I'm her replacement, Twiz." She stuck out a tiny hand.
I looked up and down the wide paneled corridor but didn't see her in front of any office. Had Lorraine been snatched by some higher-level executive, perhaps one with a breast fetish? Or a mountain climber? No matter. I was there for serious, not monkey, business.
"I can give you her personal email address, if you need to get in touch with her." Twiz wrote it on the back of one of Hunter's business cards.
Lorraine was gone? I was about to ask the circumstances when a voice boomed from within the office. "Marcus, is that you?"
I snatched the card from Twiz's desk. "Thanks." Was Twiz Hunter's new 'special employee' as Lorraine had described? Maybe his 'special niece.'
Twiz smiled. Braces. "I guess that means he'll see you."
Colorful travel brochures were open and scattered on Hunter's huge mahogany desk. He was sitting, bent over, studying the photos of smiling, swimsuit-wearing models that purportedly visited the resorts and destinations being marketed.
I waited patiently until he saw fit to tear his eyes away from a particularly scantily clad and buxom young women. "What brings you up here?"
I forced myself to abandon looking at the same photo. "Uh, me?" Could I actually pull this off?
"Tashun not treating you right? 'Cause from his departmental reports, you've got things moving smoothly again. In a week, I'll be computing compensation - management bonuses, that is - and I haven't forgotten that you'll be getting Tashun's. I'm a man of my word, don't you forget that."
"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir. I won't, sir." I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Actually, I came up here to talk about the Omniscient Software contract."
"Really?" He stood, took a few steps and leaned out the door. "Twiz, would you please hold all of my calls? Thank you, sweetheart." He spoke to her like she was his daughter, not a secretary. "Take a seat, Marcus." Hunter closed the door and sat down slowly. "Sooo, what questions do you have about the contract? You're not here to convince me to change my mind, are you? Better men have tried."
I wondered who those men were. "Oh no, sir." Was I 'sir'ing too much? Hunter seemed to like the sign of respect.
"The contract is signed, sealed and delivered. And I have faith in you, Marcus. You do wonders down there in Tashun's department. Everything I throw at him gets done, now that you're back in charge."
If I was really in charge, I would have cancelled the contract. "I appreciate your confidence, sir. But based on the pervasiveness of the software identified in the contract-" I took another deep breath, "-we don't have the budget for implementation."
"We don't?" He leaned back, hands folded behind his head. "So then, don't implement."
"I thought that was clear enough. Sit on the software. Should make your job a whole lot easier."
"Yes. It would." I had half of the smoking gun. The company would easily find cause, Hunter buying something we wouldn't use. Hunter's fiduciary responsibility was in shreds. But that wouldn't get us out of the contract. "So, if I might ask, if we're licensing the software, why wouldn't we install it?"
His hands came down on the table, flat on the swimsuit models. "For exactly the reason you mentioned. I'm no idiot, Marcus. I estimated the fallout of implementation before I put pen to paper. Nope, it would be foolish to implement this stuff. Make a complete shambles of our systems. Users would be looking to string me up."
So he knew? But he signed anyway. I was halfway there, just a bit further to an admission. I must have smiled. "Phewww. That's a relief. Thank you sir." I stood up, as if I was about to leave. Then I delivered my best Tom Cruise impression. "But if we aren't going to implement, why did we license it in the first place?" Just like asking, 'If everyone on base does what you say, and you said Santiago wasn't to be touched, why was he in jeopardy?'
Hunter's voice was a command, just like Jack Nicholson. "Sit down, Marcus."
I returned to my seat and leaned forward expectantly.
"You appreciated my generosity, putting you back in your old position, upping your salary, assigning Tashun's bonus to you? You did, didn't you?"
"Yes, very much."
"In fact, instead of waiting until next week, I'll just compute Tashun's share and assign it to you, right now. How's that?"
On tape, that would sound like a bribe. "You don't have to do that. It can wait until you do the others-"
"Nonsense. I wouldn't want any mistakes, like Tashun getting the money instead of you." He swiveled to a small laptop, opened the lid and began clicking and typing.
Although I liked what Hunter was doing, for the tape I had to protest hard. "Maybe you shouldn't take the money away from Mr. Tashun."
"No, damn it. He raised that ridiculous scene about you getting another employee pregnant on a business trip with no evidence, demoted you and cut your salary. And his timing made sure you weren't eligible for a bonus you certainly would have received. This is his punishment." He shut the lid of the laptop. "All cared for."
"Thank you, sir. You're too kind." I wasn't going to get the rest of his story, I just knew it.
"No one upstairs is caring for me like I just took care of you." His gaze was expectant, pleading for understanding. "So, that made it my responsibility, you see. To make sure I'm being cared for." He examined his hands, big hands with thick fingers. "And suddenly, I had these unexpected expenses. Several, all at the same time. A man in my position, well, my reputation is my bond, so to speak."
"Everyone here thinks the world of you, sir." A little schmoozing wouldn't hurt.
He leaned forward. "Which is precisely why I cleared your name of those outrageous charges. A man's reputation is important." He smiled and raised one eyebrow. "Besides, what red-blooded man at this company hasn't played around a bit, huh?"
Hunter had just admitted screwing around with female employees. Lorraine, most likely. But who else? Not Twiz! "If you say so, sir."
He glowered. "Damn right I do!"
He'd created the opening. "So you're taking care of yourself, right? Keeping yourself solvent?" Maybe he would open up.
He smiled, self-satisfied like after a big meal or good sex. "Something like that. Plus some benefits on the side, if you catch my drift." He winked. Aha! There was money behind Hunter's decision. Sex was part of it, too. "You know Reese, Tashun's niece, right?'
"Yes sir." Biblically, twice.
"He introduced me to her a few years ago, at one of those "Dads and Daughters Day" things. Asked if she could watch me work. I thought it was a suck up move. Damn if she didn't have my cock out, sucking me off within fifteen minutes of meeting her."
"Wow! That's unbelievable." I believed every word.
"I knew she was going to grow up into a fine example of a woman. And every year, she'd coax me into doing a little more. Until a couple of years ago, she threw off all of her clothes and begged me to deflower her. All of those experiments, leading up to, well, the event."
I'd been through the same ordeal, but I couldn't share, not on the recording. "But she consented. Heck, she seduced you!"
"Didn't make it right. But I couldn't help myself. Even got her an internship, evaluating vendor software. Which is how she met the folks at Omniscient. Turn around, and she's working for them. And then comes back to me with this big purchase order and says I have to sign off or she'll blow the whistle. Seems she wasn't legal age when we, uh, completed her education."
No wonder Hunter signed off. Statutory rape! I had enough. Any financial kickbacks from Omniscient were picky details. "Now I understand."
"No, you don't. See, Mrs. Hunter passed on a few years ago. Left me alone for the first time. Loneliness can be an awful thing. Some of the women here, they took pity on an old man. Came over to the house. Company made the house seem less empty. Cooked meals. After a while, I got to know some of them better. Seemed they had needs, just like me."
Hunter was playing the 'pity' card. I didn't buy it, not for a minute. But I played along, to get the rest of the story. "It's only natural. Men. Women."
"You may have been in the same situation, you and that Muniz woman. I'm not judging, I'm just saying that if you did seek comfort with her and her with you, maybe you were just luckier than me that your sperm didn't catch."
His sperm infiltrated the secretarial pool and created a squad of Little Hunters? This conversation was getting deeper than I wanted. Time to back out. "I appreciate your candor, I really do. You don't have to justify your behavior with me. But you need to get this contract cancelled." I decided to give him one last shot at doing the right thing.
He crossed his arms on the desk, covering all of the brochures. "Unless there's some wanton breach of the terms and conditions, which I expect isn't likely, we're stuck with the agreement."
And Omniscient had an office ready and waiting for their former big customer. "I understand."
"Now, I've taken care of you, right? Tashun's bonus? And you'll have the next one too. But this stays between us, right?"
I had to keep myself clean on the audiotape even though I relished the thought of a second helping of Tashun money. "You don't have to bribe me, Mr. Hunter. Tashun's current bonus makes up for the one I lost because of that unwarranted demotion. We're even. Thanks for your time."
Hunter stood. "Thank you, Marcus. You're a good man and a good listener. I guess I really needed to get that off my chest. Tough to live with, you know?"
"I certainly do." I had my share of sex secrets too.
He extended his big hand. I wiped my sweaty palm on my pants and I shook it heartily.
My fingers were on the door handle. All I had to do was leave, and claim success. Instead, I turned my head and asked, "By the way, what ever happened to Ms. Ryder?"
Hunter's face got bright red. "Ungrateful bitch! Excuse my language. After all I did for her, investing in her education, she got snotty with me. If there's one thing I won't tolerate, it's snotty. Fired her ass a few weeks ago. Twiz out there, she doesn't give me any lip."
I expected pretty soon she'd be giving Hunter head. "She seems nice enough."
"Minds her own business, not the snoopy type. And she's got great legs. Probably couldn't see them, with her sitting. Should I call her in so you can see them?" He reached for an intercom button.
"No thanks. Maybe some other time."
That last bit of dialogue showed Hunter's true nature as a leach. As I passed by Twiz's desk, I looked back, just in case her legs were exposed. No such luck.
I rode the elevator down. Hunter was involved in a lot of nasty. Paying blackmail? Child support? It didn't matter. It was unscrupulous and illegal. Maybe Tashun was right about an exit to Omniscient after retirement. The elevator doors opened. I headed straight for the bathroom, ripped off the tape and some body hair. I stifled a scream. Painful as hell. Dressed and with recorder in hand, I stuck my head into Tashun's office. His secretary didn't try to stop me. "Got it. Hunter's confession. How soon can we see the Board?"
Tashun searched the calendar on his smartphone. "They meet this week. I'll get myself on the agenda. But how did you-"
"Tom Cruise. A Few Good Men. Great movie." I walked out of Tashun's office, head held high. I'd just saved the company. That was more than a days work. So I took the elevator down to the garage and drove home.
I found Winifred pacing in the front hallway. Her pale face got very red at the unexpected sight of me. "Mr. Marcus! You're home!"
"What's up? Where's Harriett?"
She pointed to the staircase. "She's getting ready for a dinner meeting, and then a client's fundraising party." She seemed uncomfortable, like her clothes were too tight, despite the fact that her bold print dress was like a tent over her huge body.
"What's wrong?" Harriett had insisted that Winifred be happy with us, so if she had any anxiety, I would surely be blamed. Even if I had nothing to do with it.
"I'm so sorry. I really am." She wrung her hands. "I needed to use a computer, and Harriett was on hers, so I tried using yours but it's password protected."
To keep Harriett and Winifred away from my erotic photos and videos, for one thing. "Okay, no harm done."
"But then I remembered the one in the basement, the older one. So I went downstairs and-"
Shit! I'd removed my password so Lore would have an easy time getting the RAID array installed. And I hadn't put it back on. Had I even shut down the computer after Lore and Justine's visit? "You saw something, I take it?"
Winifred dropped her voice, like she was sharing a secret. But we both knew. "Mr. Marcus, there were all of these videos, of men and girls having sexual intercourse. In all kinds of positions." She was perspiring, wiping her forehead with the back of her hand.
She hadn't said she saw me in a video, so maybe she hadn't come across that scene. "They're instructional videos. My friend asked me to evaluate them, for educational, uh, effectiveness. Nothing for you to worry about, or mention to Harriett."
"But they were so explicit, I, well, I'd never seen anything like that, and I-"
Harriett's voice came wafting down the stairs ahead of her body. "Harvey, we're going out. Dinner with a client-"
"Yes, Winifred told me. And a fund raiser afterwards."
Harriett smiled at Winifred's efficiency. I smiled because I had to. "There are leftover vegetables in the fridge, and I put the stir fry pan out. Make yourself something healthy for a change."
Winifred glared at me, probably frustrated that our conversation had been interrupted. Both of us knew we couldn't continue our chat with Harriett present. That made us co-conspirators, a better circumstance than Winifred as my accuser and her as a victim.
Harriett took Winifred's elbow. "Come, dear, I can't wait to introduce you to some of the nicest people-"
Her voice faded as they entered the garage. Then a shout, "Harvey! Move your car so we can get out! How inconsiderate you are!"
I went outside and moved my car to the other side of the driveway. Winifred stared at me, confused and distracted. The same thing happens to me when I watch porn. I waited until they'd departed, and then entered the house through the garage. As I approached the stove with the empty stir fry pan, the magnet on the fridge for A Hot Piece, my favorite pizza place, caught my attention. How long had it been since I'd seen Nashta, the delivery girl? Too long.
I decided that I'd treat myself to a pizza and take the chance that Nashta would bring me my pie. Maybe this time we could have a conversation before she ran off. On the phone, the owner was his same, friendly self, barking at me. I was surprised he was still in business with that attitude. Although maybe a lot of his customers were smitten by his erotically beautiful delivery girl.
While I waited, I checked out the basement computer. No password, just as I expected. Winifred hadn't even closed the video player, but there was no father/daughter scene on the screen. By examining the 'Last Modified' dates, I identified which video clip she'd seen. I opened it. Yep, my former neighbor Cocksworth, the one with the foot long, fucking Annie. Shit, Winifred had never met our daughter. How would she react to their first encounter after seeing this?
I heard the doorbell. That was a whole lot faster than any other time I'd called.
I opened the door and there she was, dark hair with that sexy white streak. "Hi," she said.
Why were her hands empty? I stepped out of the way. "Come in. I though you were delivering my order."
Her hands were jammed into her jacket pockets. "You order? I go back, get for you."
I put a hand on her shoulder. "No, wait. If you don't have my pizza, why are you here?" I closed the door behind her.
She was looking past me, perhaps wondering if anyone else was at home. "I finish deliveries, had to see you."
Had to? I'd wanted to have some quality time with this erotic creature ever since we'd met. Finally, a chance to chat. "Come in, sit down. No one else is here."
She shook her head violently. "No, cannot."
"Okay, we'll stand. Why did you want to see me." I didn't repeat her 'need' word.
"I very confused." She looked at the floor, not my face. "Other customer, other men, they give big tips. Just like you." She raised her face, our eyes meeting. "But they want things. Touch me. Put hands inside clothes. Kiss. But you, you no ask anything."
"It was just a tip." No reason to scare her off by telling her my fantasies.
"No, money not just tip. Money is escape." She slumped against the wall. "My situation no so good. I go school, work hard, try to make something." A tear splattered on the tile floor. "I live with aunt and uncle. They came over sooner and sponsor me. But they make me bring drugs."
She was a courier? "That's terrible."
"Worst. My uncle, he slips into my room, takes me."
Her uncle was fucking her? Nashta's situation was horrid. I slowly closed the distance between us and took her in my arms. "You poor dear." I stroked her straight black hair. "You don't deserve that."
"When other men give me big tips, I cooperate. It is fair. But you. You don't want. So I give you back tips." She pulled a couple of twenties from her pocket. "Here."
I put my hand around hers, closing her fingers on the bills. "No, you keep them. Maybe if you earn enough, you can find a roommate and move out. Or treat yourself to something nice."
"You nice. Nice man." She stared at me, her eyes and arms pulling me closer. Our faces were mere inches apart. "Not like others. Nice." She pressed her face forward, our lips touching.
It was the kiss I'd been waiting for. Her head tilted, changing the angle of her approach. I held her close to me, anticipating what her naked body would look and feel like. But I was a nice guy, she said. Not someone who'd take advantage. Still, it was enough to get me erect. Could she feel my cock through our clothes? And would it scare her?
And then she slipped me her tongue! Damn, so much for being nice. Our kissing became frenetic. I kissed her mouth and cheeks and eyes and forehead and back to her lips. She was humping against me, demanding attention. My cock was at attention, prepared to give her whatever she demanded. And given how animated she was, I anticipated some really hot sex. Ironic, that by not asking, I was going to get the big prize. I hoped she wasn't scared off by the lump that poked against her lower belly. She wasn't, essentially fucking me with clothes on. I considered repeating my offer to come in, but to the bedroom instead of the living room.
And then the doorbell rang. She startled and pushed me away.
I reached to fix her hair, out of place from our suckface, but she backed off, out of reach. "You answer."
I pulled the door open. There was pimple guy from A Hot Piece. He looked at both of us. "Nasty, whatcha doing here?"
Nasty? Was that her nickname?
"Nothing. I go." She bolted past him before I could say a word.
He held out the box.
"She, uh, she thought she had a delivery. But of course she didn't. You do." I gave him a dollar more than the price.
He handed me the box. "Weird." He tightened his cockeyed ball cap and trotted down the walkway.