So, it seems there’s going to be a few problems at work. People are dying and no one really knows why.
Perhaps it has something to do with the computer systems and the network. In the time this novel is set, networking personal computers was in its infancy and a veritable rabbit hole to go down.
We need to throw in a bit more background and involve others, but to what extent should these other people have influence over the storyline?
This is why there are puzzling aspects of Richardson’s death, and why is Aitchison so interested?
“I knew the man better than most. But even if he was going through a bad patch, and he was a little down, he would not have killed himself, not the way it was presented in his office. The gun was in the wrong hand, his left hand. He was ambidextrous to a certain point, left-handed in some cases, right-handed in others. I knew for a fact he could only shoot with his right hand. Same as golf. But most people here would have seen him use only his left hand.”
I let his words sink in for a moment. How could he possibly know what hand Richardson used for what purpose? Perhaps golf because it was open to Company employees of any level, but shooting?
It came out of my mouth before I could stop it. “How …”
“..do I know about his shooting hand? I ran into him once at the range. I used to shoot a few skeets back in the day. Eyesight has gone to pot these days, so it’s been a while.” The last part was related more for his own benefit.
Good enough answer. I didn’t know Aitchison was a shooter. The office grapevine wasn’t as extensively knowledgeable as it purported to be.
“Then is it possible someone here killed him?”
“Like the woman he was supposedly having an affair or her jealous husband?” He laughed, and it wasn’t a particularly nice one. “The mystery woman he was spending time with was his daughter. He asked me to get her a job, but not to let on that he knew her. Didn’t want her to think he was meddling in her affairs, and that anyone else would see it as favors from the executive to certain employees.”
Aitchison’s voice shook, and he poured another drink to try and steady his nerves. He was agitated, I could see that. And he had evidence that the police would need to help solve this crime. Yet, by the way, he was talking; I don’t think he believed any of what he had just told me would be deemed as relevant.
And I was yet to see a reason why this would affect him so.
“Have you told the police this?
“Yes, but the detective they sent this morning wasn’t interested.”
Perhaps he was writing more into it than there was. I didn’t know what to say and tried to look noncommittal. Then he looked at me with a piercing stare, like the thought had just occurred to him. “You two clashed, heatedly at times. Did you do this?
Perhaps not quite the question I was expecting from him or anyone.
I was innocent, but I had one of those faces when someone puts a question to you rather abruptly, that reddened, either with embarrassment or guilt. I had very little control over it.
But to be accused of murder?
I had an alibi; I was home alone in bed trying to sleep. OK. It was shaky but the truth.
“No. Why would I?”
If I was going to kill anyone in this place, it would be Benton, or even Kowalski, another thorn in my side. Richardson was not on the list, and never would be. He was just old and pedantic, set in his ways. He clashed with everyone at one time or another. In my case, he was just cranky because I replaced his pen and paper accounting with a new application on that computer he refused to use.
He nodded to himself. “I thought not, but I had to ask.”
He stood and went over to the window and looked out. Taking time, I guessed, to collect his thoughts. He remained there with his back to me for a few minutes. It didn’t seem to be a long time.
Then he said, quietly, “It appears there’s something else going on, something that none of us in the Executive know anything about.”
I was not sure I liked the sound of that or the fact he was telling me. This was not something I should be privy to. But that still didn’t stop me from asking, “Like what for instance?”
“The existence of another network.”
“What do you mean?” Another network? There was only one. I had seen it installed, and went through the teething process of getting it up and running, as every bit as hard as bringing a new baby into the world.
I would know if there was another network. Wouldn’t I?
“Apparently there is supposedly another network of computers running in this office. I have only the word of a policeman by the name of Chief Inspector Gator, a computer expert, and a consultant from Interpol. How the hell did this information get to Interpol, of all people?”
I couldn’t tell him. This was news to me.
“What evidence have they got that this ‘other network’ exists?”
“Intercepted telephone calls reporting a connection error to a network system by the name of Starburst. There was a log entry on Richardson’s computer referring to it, about the time of a power failure last night. The computer expert is down in the server room now looking for this other network.”
He swiveled around and looked down at me with a thunderous expression. “You didn’t set anything up for Halligan, did you?”
I was surprised he asked. We had a discussion some months ago about the fact most of the AGM’s came directly to me to sort out their computer issues. Halligan was the worst of all of them, using his position to browbeat me into doing work that could only be described as off-book. Whilst strictly speaking, as AGM – Information Technology, Halligan was quite within his purview to make such requests; it was the security aspects that had to be signed off on before executing such requests. It added a new level of pain to the approvals process and had made Halligan an enemy of both Aitchison and myself, even though I had nothing to do with it.
The problem was, like all members of the Executive, Halligan was his own worst enemy. Each of their areas of responsibility was like fiefdoms, and none of them like the others to encroach on their territory. Halligan’s was the only area that had a shared responsibility with security. Soon after the new arrangements were put in place, and the fact I had been left off the list of people to be informed, Halligan had asked me to do some work, and not aware of any change in procedure, did it.
Then, playing the usual game of one-upmanship, Halligan told the Executive of the new initiative and left a smoldering Aitchison in his wake. In the end, all it did was cause me trouble, a severe reprimand, and no apology for being left off the distribution list informing of the new arrangements.
It was still a raw nerve and he had touched it.
© Charles Heath 2015-2021