Writing about writing a book – Day 34

So it seems that Aitchison, the latest addition to the story, has reservations about what’s is or isn’t going on.  Aitchison is in charge of the security, not only the computer systems, but for everyone, and, of course, the first person the police would go and see.

It’s also time to bring in the CEO, a rather elusive character, but one who will have a great deal to do with our main character for a lot of different reasons.  But, for now, all the reader needs to know is that he exists,  and is very elusive for one particular reason.

Halligan is just another incidental character, significant only because he is also dead, and where there are multiple deaths, there had to be a conspiracy.  Aitchison, of course, is not what he seems, not that we know that yet, but for now, is a man with a problem.

I looked Aitchison directly in the eye, so he would not think I was lying. “Since the last debacle, I rarely see Halligan, and, when I do, I can assure you the last thing he wants to do is ask for favors. My last visit was to set up a laptop on his desk, not connected to the network. Does the CEO know anything about this?”

The CEO was almost the equivalent of the invisible man. No one could remember seeing him in the office, or when he visited the last time and was rumored to be at his Nevada ranch most of the time where he had an office. I remember setting up video conferencing for him a year or so ago, but I don’t think it had even been used.
But Aitchison was one of a few who had met him personally.

“I put a call in. He’s at a retreat with the American management team, going through some team-building exercises. I’m waiting for his call, but I think I can safely say he will deny everything, and plead innocence.”

“Has the staff members been questioned?”

“Yes. No one had anything constructive to add. But one other interesting bit of information that did come out of that briefing with the Chief Inspector was that Halligan also attempted to log onto this other network. That’s why I asked you about Halligan.”

Something was not right. Halligan was dumb when it came to computers, and only wanted a computer, not connected to the network. Of course, he needed a networked desktop for email, and sourcing documents, and perhaps the peek at a porn site through the internet, but that was the extent of his involvement. His knowledge of networking was solely based on the background papers I wrote for him when he needed information for meetings and conferences. He even had trouble logging into the network at times, because he kept forgetting his password.

I kept that to myself. Aitchison was probably not interested in anything that would refute his belief of what the situation entailed. He was partially wrong, but that was driven by fear.

“What had Halligan have to say about all of this?”

It was an innocent question, but it drew the sharpest reaction and given a sudden ashen look on his face, the catalyst of his fear. The mere mention of questioning Halligan had caused him to turn white.

“He’s dead too, and conveniently cannot answer any questions. The doctor said it was a heart attack.”

“Dead? Where, when?”

“Early this morning, at home. Apparently, his wife is away, overseas visiting relatives, and neither we nor the police have been able to contact her. I only found out when I tried to call him this morning after the news about Richardson broke, and the police answered the phone.”

He poured a splash of whiskey into the glass and drank it down. If it was to settle his nerves it wasn’t working.

“And you don’t think it was a heart attack?”

“Too convenient, far too convenient, especially so soon after the Richardson thing, and in the light of this other network logon episode. The very two people who allegedly knew about this network both dying of innocent causes? Something is going on here, and we have to get to the bottom of it, before the police, Interpol or any forensic experts, if that’s what they are.”

He poured himself another liberal drink from the bottle and offered me one. I declined. Too early, and my nerves were not yet getting the better of me.

A shiver ran down my spine. I was beginning to buy into his paranoia. It was beginning to look like anyone associated with this secret network found themselves on some sort of hit list. No wonder Aitchison was jumpy. He’d obviously come to the same conclusion I did. He’d been making inquiries, and it might be enough to have his name added to the list.

Telling me about it might just be enough to add my name to that same list. I looked at the whiskey bottle and the glass. It might be time for a nerve-steadying drink.

Aitchison was still talking, and I just caught what he was saying, “… it’s your network. People will be asking questions.”

If he was trying to scare me, it was working.

He continued, “The police were rather sceptical when I said we didn’t know the network was in place. I’m to be interviewed next. You shouldn’t be far behind. Forewarned is forearmed.”

He turned to look out at the city. The view was magnificent, despite the wintry weather.
After a minute, he said, “At least there is one irrefutable fact. Richardson was in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s the only explanation. I don’t believe he was trying to log into anything, but he was the victim of a random key combination or a glitch in the power supply to the system. You’ve seen it happen yourself when the power goes down momentarily and just enough time elapses to trick the computer into thinking it has to log in again. There was a brief power outage last night, during the storm. It might be worth investigating that event, and the effect on our systems.”

That was not a bad assessment, and one I hadn’t thought of.

“Then, there is something else, the Chief Inspector mentioned in passing, and that was one of the employees claims his building pass card had been stolen. Again, convenient, but the police are questioning him, but according to building security, that pass was used last night.”

“The person who killed Richardson?”

“If you put two and two together and get four. The police aren’t saying much, but that’s the inference I’d draw?”

“And the person with the missing card?”

“A janitor, or maintenance worker, not one of our people. He probably has a police record as long as his arm. You should go. And just a thought. If it was a desktop system connected to the in-house network, then one of our servers had to be used as a gateway. Tell me you installed those special log files when I asked you to last week?”

I had been in two minds about implementing that particular request because in part it when against the privacy regulations we had to adhere to.  After reading the relevant legislation and taking to a consulting security company who had advised we were well within our rights to do so, in the end, I did. And it had given several positive results immediately after its implementation, proving beneficial in tracking down people using the network incorrectly. I’m glad he remembered it. In the panic, it slipped my mind.
“Of course! How do you think I tracked down the troublemaker in Distribution?”

“Good. Start the investigation as soon as you bet back to the floor, but be careful to make sure no one knows about it, or what you are doing. People connected with this seem to be suffering from terminal health problems.”

I stood. I was not sure if I felt suitably inspired.

“I’ll let you know what I find.”

© Charles Heath 2015-2023

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