Chapter 14 - April 4, 2003 PM - Episode 5Listen to podcast
“You were video taping him shoot himself?”
“No, no, of course not. There was a camera above his door. It takes a video — not a great video, but you can see what’s happening in most places in his office. It tries to look wherever sound is coming from. The camera sends stuff to this thing I have here that records it. I have the video of when I was in the office.” She points to a small grey box on her credenza.
“So I can see and hear for myself what happened?”
“You can see it but you can’t hear it. There used to be audio but it broke. So I just have video.”
“Did the deceased know you were bugging his office?”
“Why did you do it?”
“Because I didn’t trust him anymore. He was acting strangely. I had to protect the company. I wanted to know what he was up to.”
“What was he up to?”
“I didn’t find out anything. I didn’t see anything that unusual. I didn’t hear anything — when I had audio I mean, I didn’t hear anything that unusual. But I was worried, so I watched.”
“Were you blackmailing the deceased?”
“What do you mean?”
“I think you know what I mean,” he says. “Did you watch him with girl friends in the office? Did you threaten to send tapes to his wife?”
“How can you say that?” she asks.
“That’s what people do with sneaky cameras. And you didn’t want to tell me about the camera. Even when you’re in lots of trouble and you have the video to get you out, you didn’t want to tell me about the camera. So now I wonder: What you were using the camera for? Why you didn’t want to tell me about it?”
“I didn’t do any of that stuff,” she says. “You just don’t like me, that’s why you think that.”
“Why didn’t you tell me about the camera?” he repeats.
“It’s embarrassing,” she says. “I really didn’t want it to get out that I had this thing in my CEO’s office. And then, after he’s dead, it’s his reputation, too. I mean, I don’t want to explain that he’s getting irrational, that I don’t trust him. And how’s the whole thing sound for the company? I care about that, so I didn’t say anything.”
“How far back does the tape go?”
“It’s not a tape. I think it’s a hard drive or something. It’s in this box and my computer can get to it and that’s how I watch it. It just does six hours, something like that.”
“So you could see the meeting with Ahmed?”
“So you knew who he was meeting with? It’s not that he told you that.”
“He did tell me… Yeah, I did peek. I did look at the video. But Larry told me, just like I told you.”
“What else is on there?”
“Nothing, really. There’s Larry; he’s in his office. He does stuff. He gets up, he walks around. In the beginning a guy brings him some pizza. He puts mushrooms on it like he always does. Like I said, must be what made him sick.”
“Do you know anything about the mushrooms?”
“Are you sure? You’re not going to tell me something different later? You’re not going to say you didn’t want to get embarrassed so there’s something you didn’t tell me about the mushrooms?”
“No, I swear.”
“Okay,” says Mark. “Show me the tape of your meeting with the deceased.”
Donna swivels back to face her computer. Mark comes around the “L” of the desk to stand behind her, looking over her right shoulder at the screen. She hits a few keys and clicks a few buttons. A grainy, jerky video shows up in a box about two inches square in a window on the lower left corner of her screen. Mark asks Donna to make it bigger but she says she can’t. He brushes against her chair and excuses himself as he moves to look over her left shoulder; he has to stoop close to her to see the image past her shoulder since it is at the bottom of her screen. Their arms touch, but Donna doesn’t move back or sideways to give Mark an unobstructed view.
In the little window, Larry is sitting alone at his desk. The camera is apparently mounted somewhere near the door and high with a fish-eye view of most of the office but it can’t see the wall it is on or the first few feet of the two adjoining walls. At the lower right of the window, there is a digital display of picture time and date. The video starts at 2007 03312003 and flickers forward.
“Is that the beginning?” asks Mark. “Is that when you turned the camera on?”
“It’s the beginning of the video because only the most recent six hours is kept,” says Donna. “I always left the camera on.”
“Why did you stop it at 2:07 AM the night of the murder?”
“MURDER? There was NO MURDER!” Donna’s chair back hits Mark in the stomach as she comes upright in her seat.
Mark straightens and steps back, but says nothing.
“I’m going to show you,” she says. “I’m going to show you there was no murder. It’s in the video. That’s what I’m showing you. How do you know that I stopped the camera? When I stopped the camera? What are you saying?”
“Obviously you stopped the recording at 2:07 AM if the recorder only has the last six hours,” says Mark. “My question is: Why did you stop it?”
Donna has to twist around and look up to talk to Mark. He doesn’t move back far enough to make this easy, and as she speaks, he continues to monitor the on-screen window where Larry still sits alone
“I stopped the camera,” she says finally, “because there was nothing left to record. Larry was dead. He wasn’t… I mean there was nothing left to record. Doesn’t that makes sense?”
“It would make more sense if you told me the whole truth about why you were recording,” says Mark.
“I am telling you; I did tell you. Why don’t you believe me? I have a video.” She twists back to look at the video.
“Why didn’t you erase it?”
“It was … I mean, I don’t even know how to erase it. It’s just there and it gets written over when more is recorded. I didn’t even think of it.”
“You thought to stop it. You could have left it going. Six hours later, there would have been no trace of your having been in the deceased’s office.”
“I … I didn’t think of all that. I just thought Larry’s dead and how he died and I turned it off and I went home. I mean … like I said … I was panicked.”
The tiny Larry on the screen gets up from his desk and walks towards the camera. He’s slightly bent over and has a quizzical, pained look on his face. He passes under the camera and out of sight. The picture is of an empty room.
Mark says: “And now you conveniently have this video that is gonna show me how innocent you are, taken in a room you first said you weren’t in at that time. Pretty convenient.”
Donna’s expression turns from frightened to angry as she twists to look up at Mark again. The flush moves from her neck to her cheeks; her mouth is slightly open and she is breathing through it. “That’s not right. You’re harassing me. You have no business…”
“We are going to leave this room,” says Mark. “Right now. Please stand up and leave the room in front of me ... well in front of me.”
“Are you arresting me?”
“You haven’t left me any choice. I would’ve stayed and watched the video and seen if you’re telling the truth. But I’m not setting myself up for a harassment charge; we’re outta here. I’ll watch the video after I arrest you on suspicion of murder.”
“Wait,” says Donna. “Wait. If you just watch the video, you’ll see I’m innocent.” Now she is cajoling. “Arresting me isn’t going to do either of us any good. I mean…”
“Let’s go, please,” says Mark. He moves to the office door, opens it, and steps half way into the hall.
“Why don’t you watch the video by yourself if you’re afraid to be with me?” Donna suggests. “I mean I’ll go take a walk. I can use it. I’ll come back in a while. that’s what I’ll do. And then you’ll have seen the video. You’ll know that I … that Larry shot himself. That I didn’t do anything. And then…”
“Here’s what we’re gonna do,” says Mark. “We’re going to go out of this office to reception. I’m going to write you a receipt for this box with the video in it; all nice and in public. We’re going to go back with a witness and take this box outta here. And I’m gonna put some nice yellow police tape across your door…”
“That’s awful,” says Donna. “You’re arresting me.”
“You do exactly what I say and, if the video shows what you say it shows, then I don’t have to arrest you right now,” says Mark. “I’m not promising you don’t get arrested later. I’m not promising anything at all. But I’m telling you what you gotta do if you don’t want to get arrested right now.”
“How am I supposed to explain the tape on my door?” Donna is slightly teary. “How do I explain that?”
“If I were you, I wouldn’t explain anything. Just find somewhere else to work while we get your office searched and see what other toys you got besides the recorder. And while we get the software for the recorder off of your PC.”
“Could you search some other offices, too?” asks Donna. “Do me a favor and search some other offices?”
“Can you give me a reason to search any other offices?”
“Well,” says Donna, “I mean if you search the other offices then it won’t look like—”
“No. That doesn’t work. That’s why you want me to search the other offices; it’s not why I’d want to search the other offices. You tell me something helpful I might find, I’ll look anywhere. You think I should look in Dom’s office for something?” Mark is still standing in the hall just ouside her door. There are gaps in their conversation as people walk by.
“No,” she says. “No. Why Dom’s office?”
“Let’s go,” says Mark. Reluctantly Donna follows Mark out to reception where he laboriously hand-writes a receipt which Donna has the receptionist copy. The receptionist becomes their chaperone and walks back with them to retrieve the video recorder which Mark unplugs from a USB port on Donna’s computer and from an Ethernet port in the wall. He has to crawl under the desk for this but smiles slightly as he does.
“Now,” says Donna as Mark straightens up. “Now what I’d like you to do is seal this room off. We can’t be too careful after what happened to Larry. Please be sure to conduct a very thorough search. I wouldn’t ask this if I didn’t think it was important.”
Mark looks surprised, then recovers. “Right, Ms. Langhorne,” he says. “Please be sure not to leave New York City until I have given you clearance.” He leaves with the recorder.
“I asked to have the office searched,” Donna explains to the receptionist. “After what happened to Larry, I wanted it searched. They’re so afraid for my safety that they don’t want me to leave the City.”
“Right, Donna,” says the receptionist. “I thought Larry shot himself. Then why…”
“Of course he did,” says Donna. “Of course. But we don’t know why, and you can never be too careful.”
Before the afternoon is over, the receptionist, her girlfriend, her boyfriend, her mother, her brother, and her aunt all sell the hackoff.com stock they got as friends and family at the IPO and have held ever since. They didn’t sell when they could have had a huge gain but waited, as many did, for further gains. They didn’t sell during the long decline because it only made sense it would reverse. But, after the receptionist calls them, they each call the broker who holds the stock and accept the loss of about $14.50 a share.
The broker tells his assistant that he isn’t completely surprised that a whole related group should sell at once; he’s seen rumors spread before and he knows about the CEO’s death. He is surprised, he says, that one of them mentions the CEO’s “murder” since everyone knows he shot himself.