Unauthorized Access, page 1
Unauthorized Access is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Andrew McAllister
Published by Andrew McAllister
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without express written permission from the author.
Cover design: Thomas K. Matthews Illustration
Author photo: Mary Ellen Nealis Photography
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9880608-1-4
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9880608-0-7
TIM WHITLOCK PLASTERED an automatic grin on his face when he came across Rob Donovan pushing the up button for the elevator. After so many years of hiding his seething resentment, Tim’s smile was second nature.
“Hey buddy,” Rob said, “what’s going on?”
The young men were both two years out of college and stood a shade over six feet tall. Tim had straight sandy hair that was swept to one side, while Rob gelled his short, black hair so tufts of it stood up here and there.
“Not much,” Tim said. “How about you. You up to anything tonight?”
Rob seemed to hesitate, but then he just grinned and said, “I’ll tell you later.”
Tim was fairly confident Rob’s plans for the evening didn’t matter much. They were almost certainly going to change.
The elevator doors opened and Rob gave Tim a half wave as he stepped inside. As soon as the doors slid shut Tim quickly doubled back to Rob’s cubicle. His heart was racing but he did his best to plant a relaxed expression on his face as he looked around to see if anyone was nearby.
He saw no one so he stepped into the cubicle and pulled a Ziploc bag from his pocket. The bag contained a shiny metal USB memory stick. Using the bag to make sure he didn’t leave any fingerprints, Tim opened the top drawer of Rob’s desk. He hesitated for a moment, but then took a steadying breath and with trembling fingers he dropped the memory stick near the back of the drawer, where it nestled among a litter of pens, erasers, and push pins. He closed the drawer and exited the cubicle, relieved that no one saw him.
Tim joined the end-of-day crowd riding the elevator down from the office tower. The main branch of the First Malden Bank occupied the ground floor, conveniently close to the bank’s headquarters on floors four through nine above. Tim and Rob both worked on the fifth floor.
When Tim reached the lobby, he turned left and walked into the branch. Five people were waiting to use the ATMs. Tim joined the line. He tapped his leg nervously and tried not to think about what he was doing. His tongue felt like it was stuck to the roof of his mouth.
He looked anxiously at his watch. Four-fifty-two. There was still time if the people ahead of him didn’t take too long. The hidden software examined Tim’s checking account every afternoon at five o’clock.
Another wave of acid roiled up from Tim’s stomach. He had been putting off this moment for the last four months. Every morning during that time he left his apartment intending to stop at an ATM and transfer the magic amount into his checking account. Twelve dollars and thirty-four cents. One, two, three, four. A few buttons pushed on an ATM keypad and his life would change forever.
Every time he arrived at the bank, however, the inner voice spoke up: What if it doesn’t work?
Tim hated that voice.
What if you get caught and go to jail?
The fear was too much for Tim, so every day he walked past the bank machines in the lobby without stopping—and promised himself the next day would be different.
But now Tim could wait no longer, because earlier that afternoon his boss had announced a new project. Their team of software developers would be working on a new release of the Account Management System. Once the system upgrade began, someone might discover the surprise Tim had taken such risks to hide within the current version of the software.
Tim took a deep breath and jammed his hands in his pockets to keep them from trembling. He closed his eyes and reminded himself why he was doing this. He had been waiting since high school to settle the score with his good buddy Rob Donovan, lifetime president of the Let’s Screw Tim Club. This was the one and only chance Tim would ever have to get even, to reclaim the life that should have been his all along. His insider access at the bank gave him the perfect opportunity, and there was no way in hell he was going to waste it.
No, today was the day.
* * *
Rob felt a surge of pure ambition as he pushed open the polished wooden door into the ninth floor office suite of Stan Dysart, President and CEO of the First Malden Bank. This was not a case of money lust, but more akin to what the early settlers must have experienced as they gazed in awe for the first time upon the vast expanse of the Great Plains. Walking into the understated elegance of this temple to financial achievement always gave Rob a sense of limitless possibilities, a feeling that he could accomplish anything if he was willing to bear down and put his mind to it.
With this thought quickening his step, he strode into the reception area to find the familiar figure of Mary sitting behind her desk.
“Oh good, you’re still here,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if my message would catch you before you left for the day.”
Rob flashed a grin at her. “How could I resist an invitation from a pretty lady like you?”
“Aren’t you full of it today,” Mary said, although Rob’s words brought a tiny smile to one corner of her mouth. It wasn’t every day that someone so young and handsome waltzed into Mary’s office and flirted with her.
She flushed slightly as she picked up her phone receiver and punched a button.
“Rob is here,” she said.
Mary nodded to herself and put down the receiver. “He said you should—”
The inner door was yanked open from the other side and the head man himself stood framed in the opening. “Rob, come in.”
“Thanks Mary,” Rob said, and followed Dysart into his office.
“Sit down,” Dysart said as Rob closed the door behind them.
Two tan leather chairs and a matching love seat guarded three sides of a glass coffee table in one corner of the sumptuous office. A framed seascape hung on the wall over the love seat. Dysart’s massive ebony desk was on the opposite side of the room in front of a row of plate glass windows, which offered an impressive view of the tumult of downtown Boston. Rob settled into one of the leather chairs.
Dysart hustled over and sat on the love seat. Even in crossing the room, Dysart’s trim body exuded a level of energy that would put most other fifty-five-year-olds in bed for the rest of the day. His salt-and-pepper gray hair was one of the few signs of his true age.
“I’m glad I caught you,” Dysart said. “I have a meeting with John Kelleher first thing tomorrow morning and I plan to talk to him about you.”
Rob raised one quizzical eyebrow. Kelleher was Rob’s boss, the bank’s Information Technology Director.
“What about?” Rob asked.
“You remember what we talked about a couple of years ago when I offered you a position at First Malden?”
“Sure.” Rob thought for a moment. “You told me there were plenty of opportunities and I sho
“I said I’d take care of you, make sure you went places.”
Rob felt a thrill pass through his body. This was sounding better by the moment.
Dysart shifted forward so his elbows were on his knees. He looked at Rob with great intensity.
“What I’m about to tell you is strictly confidential,” Dysart said.
“You ever hear of Grantham Savings Bank?”
Rob nodded. “They’re in New Hampshire … and Vermont, I think.”
“Exactly. We’re in the early stages of determining whether we want to acquire Grantham and merge our operations. This is a critical step for us because there’s no place in today’s economy for a bank of our size. Our overhead costs are always going to be too high until we reach a critical mass. And I’ll tell you one of the biggest culprits.”
He pointed an index finger at Rob.
“Those computers you tinker with every day,” Dysart said. “Our customers are always screaming for more applications. First it was ATMs, then home banking. Now people want to pay their bills while they’re walking down the street. If we don’t provide this stuff, then our customers will take their dollars to another bank that does. But technology has little to do with making the bank work. You tell me—what’s our single most important success factor?”
Rob thought for a moment.
“We offer competitive rates,” he said, “and convenient locations so that …”
He trailed off when he saw Dysart shaking his head.
“It’s all about people,” Dysart said. “We treat big city Boston like a collection of small towns. Our branch managers and senior loans officers live in the areas they serve. They go to church with their potential customers. They take their kids to the same little league games and ballet lessons. So when a local retailer needs some cash to get ramped up for Christmas, who do they turn to? The people they know, that’s who. You remember that, son. You can have the hottest skills and offer the greatest products under the sun, but ninety-nine percent of business folks make decisions based on their comfort level. And there’s nothing more comfortable than dealing with people you know.”
Rob nodded gravely to show he had stored this nugget of advice away for all eternity.
“From what I’ve seen so far,” Dysart went on, “Grantham Savings works the same way. They like to be part of the community. But that’s not the only reason they’re a good fit for us. According to Kelleher they have strong technology products in the areas we’re lacking—like this mobility stuff he’s been going on about lately. So a merger is win-win for us. We end up with more revenue to support a single, centralized technology department. You with me so far?”
“Yes sir. Makes perfect sense.”
“Good, because you’re going to help assess the feasibility of the merger.”
Rob gaped at Dysart, too astonished to say anything.
“Obviously a critical part of the due diligence will be to determine how our systems fit with theirs,” Dysart said. “I’ll tell Kelleher I want you involved.”
“That’s incredible, obviously … but I don’t know much about mergers and feasibility studies.”
“Then this is the way to learn. You’ll be working with a group of more experienced people and we’ll carve out a role you can handle.”
A delighted smile spread across Rob’s face.
“Awesome,” he said.
“Besides, the knowledge you gain is not the most important part. I’m putting you face to face with some movers and shakers. Howard Siebold, for instance, the CEO at Grantham. By the time this merger is done, you won’t be able to count the number of meetings you’ve had with executive types like him.”
“Won’t they think it’s strange to have a young guy like me there?”
“You want to be a junior programmer all your life?”
“No, not really,” Rob said.
“I’ve had my eye on you ever since you and Lesley arrived in Boston to go to college. When I talked you into coming to work for me, it wasn’t just because you’re my favorite niece’s boyfriend. You have terrific people skills and according to Kelleher your work has been outstanding. So I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to jump-start your career and this is it.”
Rob felt like jumping up and bouncing around the room. “That’s amazing. Thank you.”
Dysart made a waving gesture with his hand. “We’re going to be family someday, and if you’re going to take care of my Lesley, you darn well better do okay for yourself.”
Rob couldn’t help but chuckle. “What makes you think Lesley and I will end up getting married?”
“It’s only a matter of time. At least that’s what Sheila claims every time you and Lesley come for dinner. The two of you are no sooner out the door at the end of the night and she’s going on about the beautiful children you’re going to have.”
“Sounds like I don’t have any say in the matter.”
Dysart’s face grew serious again. “Now you have to realize, I can’t make success happen for you. I can only put you on the merger team. After that you’ve got to do your part, bring value to the process.”
“I’ll do my absolute best,” Rob said. “I can promise you that.”
“I bet you already have some ideas about how to assess Grantham’s I.T. capabilities.”
Rob stared at the glass table while he thought for a few seconds.
“We’ll need an inventory of their computer applications,” he said, “as well as an up-to-date list of our own systems.”
He stood up and started pacing, his brow furrowed in concentration.
“Heck, yeah,” Rob continued. “I bet we could put together a comparison chart that shows areas where we overlap and others where we—”
Rob stopped when he noticed Dysart shaking his head and grinning at him.
“What?” Rob said.
“I was right about you,” Dysart said. “You grab the world by the tail and yank hard, just like me.”
Rob tried to conceal a widening smile but he couldn’t. He flashed back to the feeling he had when he walked into Dysart’s office. Rob wondered if that was a premonition of impending good luck.
He had no idea how wrong he was on that score.
* * *
When Tim finally got an ATM, he had to try twice before he entered his PIN correctly. Then he chose to transfer. From savings to checking. One, two, three, four. He pressed the OK button.
The slip of paper seemed to take forever to pop out of the slot. He grabbed it and read the time printed on his receipt. Four-fifty-eight. He made it!
Tim suddenly felt lightheaded. He stowed his bank card in his wallet and hurried out to the Tremont Street sidewalk.
Standing to one side of the stream of people on their way home, Tim closed his eyes and tried to relax. The elation he had expected did not come. Instead his stomach clenched and he started to shake. Hugging both arms to his chest, he shuffled to the edge of the sidewalk and leaned against the concrete wall of the office tower, struggling to take a normal breath. He gasped repeatedly, nearly doubled over with the effort to draw air all the way into his lungs. Within moments he was panting rapidly. It felt like nothing was making it past the top of his throat.
What had he done? My God, what if this backfired? His job would be gone, and even worse he’d lose any chance of ever regaining what was rightfully his. He jammed his eyes even more tightly shut and willed himself to get a grip. He had planned carefully. Everything would work out fine.
“Hey man, are you all right?”
Tim lifted his head and squinted enough to see a teenager with dreadlocks standing in front of him. The guy had a backpack draped over one shoulder and was carrying a well-worn skateboard almost completely covered with decals. The look on the young man’s face made it clear he was concerned. Behind him a small group was starting to gather, three or four business people carrying briefcases and purses, all of them looking at Tim
Tim couldn’t stand for anyone to see him like this. He felt naked and exposed, without the emotional suit of armor he wore every day to keep people from seeing the loneliness inside. He tried to tell them he was fine so they’d leave him alone but he couldn’t work up enough air pressure to make any sound come out.
With one elbow he pushed himself off the building wall and roughly shouldered his way past the teenager.
“Hey,” the guy said indignantly, “what the hell’s your problem, asshole?”
Tim didn’t even glance back. He staggered down the sidewalk as quickly as he could, still fighting to take a full breath as he headed for the subway.
A LARGE BLUE logo on each side of the white van marked it as the property of WNWB-TV NEWS. Video cameras, tripods, and sound gear of every description were arrayed inside. Such were the tools of the trade for Shayna Givhan, who drove the van while Lesley McGrath sat in the passenger seat.
“You know what?” Lesley said. “I bet that story we just did will be the part of the six o’clock news when all the viewers get up off their couches and go to the bathroom.”
“You don’t like covering birthday parties?” Shayna said with a look of mock dismay.
“Don’t get me wrong, she was a sweet old lady. And it isn’t everyone who can hang around for a century and still remember the punch line when she tells a joke. But we’re not exactly talking front page news here.”
“Not to worry, honeycakes,” Shayna said. “We won’t be the new kids on the block forever.”
“I know,” Lesley said, “and I’m not complaining. I love my job. I’m just looking forward to the day when we get stories we can sink our teeth into.”
“Don’t forget that ribbon-cutting ceremony we did last week.”
Lesley laughed. “I rest my case.”
The two young women worked on opposite sides of the camera, which explained some of the differences in their appearance. Lesley’s shoulder-length brown hair was a mass of wavy curls just this side of unruly. Her subdued makeup, simple gold earrings and light blue, size-eight suit were designed to project a wholesome image to television viewers.