Chapter 14 - April 4, 2003 PM - Episode 6Listen to podcast
Like many Wall Street firms, Barcourt fled the downtown area after 9/11. The executive offices once housed in the World Financial Center are now located in a twenty-story building on 58th Street. Detective Mark Cohen and Rachel Roth are meeting near there at a fern bar she suggested.It was Mark’s idea to conduct a very “informal interview”. Even though Rachel has, as far as he knows, no good alibi for the time of Larry’s death, the video clearly showing him pulling the trigger himself in front of a horrified Donna seems to make alibis unnecessary. Except for the mushrooms, of course, Mark told Captain DeNapoli. And except for the fact that everyone is lying to him about something. He said he was sure about that. He didn’t tell his supervisor about the call he recently received from Louise Lazard about a visit by Rachel Roth. It is this visit he is meeting with Rachel to discuss.
The window of the bar is festooned with hanging ferns; there are a few dead fern leaves on the table when Mark and Rachel sit down. Mark brushes them into a pile against the window. He orders a Coke; she orders a chardonnay recommended by the waiter. Mark is wearing a blue blazer and a light blue shirt with the collar open; most other men in the bar have ties and many are wearing suits. Even Rachel is in a pin-striped suit with a knee-length skirt and a cream-colored blouse with a dense row of pearl-like buttons.
They make small talk for only a few minutes before Mark says: “Ms. Lazard told me about your visit.”
“She said she was going to. I would have preferred that she keep it to herself, frankly, but she didn’t see it that way. Still, I’m glad we spoke. I didn’t want her to think badly of me. I wanted her to have a good memory of Larry. It was the right thing to do.” She draws herself up and looks at Mark as if for affirmation.
“Yes,” says Mark after a pause. “Yes, it was the right thing to do.” He waits.
“I didn’t want her to think Larry and I really had an affair. It was important she know it was a charade. I took a risk that she wouldn’t see me, wouldn’t believe me; but I think she was glad I came — once she agreed to let me talk to her at all.” She smiles and stops.
“So,” Mark says finally, “as I said, Ms. Lazard told me about your conversation. It would be helpful, though, if you could tell me what you told her. It’s better to hear things directly, I’ve found. Is that okay? Do you mind going over this again?”
“What happens to what I tell you?” asks Rachel. “Louise told me you have a video that actually shows … that shows that Larry … that it was definitely suicide. She was sure it was murder, she said, and now even she’s almost convinced it wasn’t. So I guess I’m surprised there’s still a murder investigation and that you even want to talk to me. So I think it’s fair to ask what you plan to do with what I tell you.”
“Probably it just goes into a report,” says Mark. “That is assuming you’re going to tell me the same thing I heard from Ms. Lazard. You wouldn’t believe how many reports there are even when an investigation is closed without an arrest. And the file is full of people saying — excuse me for saying this, but it’s a fact — the file is full of talk about the affair you and the deceased were supposed to be having. Naturally, that’s one of those things that provides a possible motive. You know we were very eager to talk to Ahmed. Even Ms. Lazard was regarded as having a motive. All very traditional really. And she did have a motive, since she believed there was an affair. But, since the video, then it’s mainly a chance of getting everything wrapped up as tidily as possible. Also, what you told Ms. Lazard may provide a motive for the suicide. The way we cops are, you know, we like to have a motive even if there isn’t a murder. So maybe what you tell me helps us write some nice, neat final reports.”
“What about the mushrooms?” Rachel asks. “Don’t you still have to investigate them? I read about them in the Post.”
“I wouldn’t believe everything I read in the Post. Most people figure he just picked the wrong mushrooms. That’s easy to do, apparently.”
“Okay,” says Rachel. “Okay, I’ll help clean up your reports. But one question, one thing I need to ... want to know is how confidential are all these reports? I have nothing to hide. I’d be happy to have people know, actually, that Larry and I weren’t having this mad affair like everybody thought. But there’s the stuff about Ahmed … about him and me. If I talk to you, am I gonna… going to … read all about this in the Post?”
Mark assures her that his reports are confidential. He tells her, though, that if there were a trial, maybe even if there were a lawsuit, then what she told him could come out. Also, she’d probably be called as a witness if that happened but, given the rumors, that would probably happen anyway. Rachel does not appear completely reassured but agrees to tell the story to Mark the way she told it to Louise.
The story starts with Larry agreeing to hire the Jenin Group Ahmed represents to do some programming work for hackoff. They do the work and almost everybody is very happy. They do some more work — something a little harder this time — and almost everybody is happy again. The almost part is Dom. According to both Larry and Ahmed, Dom doesn’t like using the Jenin Group; he doesn’t like outsourcing at all and he seems to have taken a particular dislike to Ahmed, perhaps because he’s an Arab. Every time Ahmed wants to get paid, he’s got to appeal to Larry directly because Dom won’t okay the payments.
Then they decide to use the Jenin Group for something much bigger than they’ve done before. This involves giving the group access to some of the source code — Rachel’s not quite clear what that means, but knows it’s important. While they’re working on this project, a problem comes up. As she understands it, Dom called the Jenin Group directly and demanded the source code back and access to their computers. He told them they never should have had it, even though Larry had given it to them. He was very insulting to the people he talked to. It would have been better if he’d just talked to Ahmed, but that’s not what happened. He called directly.
One of the people that Dom insulted was a young Palestinian, most of whose relatives had been killed by the Israelis. This guy is something of a hothead under the best of circumstances and these aren’t the best of circumstances. Before anyone can calm him down, the guy disappears with a copy of the precious source code.
That’s only the beginning. Things go down hill from there. Yasir — that’s the name the hothead has taken — disappears. People figure good riddance because he’s hard to work with, but he’s also the kind of angry young man they were trying to provide alternatives for and he is a very smart programmer. But soon there’s an email from him at an untraceable address. He has a copy of the source code, he says. Unless he is immediately given ten million dollars, which he will use to advance the Intifada, he will use the source code to enable him to mount an attack of some kind on hackoff customers. He will, he says, net much more than ten million dollars from that before he is through.
And there are some threats. If any authorities — particularly the Israelis — are alerted, or if any attempt is made to update the software at hackoff customer sites to protect against an attack, he will both launch a devastating blitz on the sites and he will kill Larry Lazard. No one is sure whether he is actually in the US but he does give two frightening demonstrations. He tells his contacts to tell Larry where he can find evidence on customer computers that this guy is able to get inside and he emails a photo of an object which has been stolen from inside Larry’s office.
It is Ahmed who has to tell Larry all this, and he obviously feels terrible about it, although some of it is Dom’s fault for insulting Yasir to begin with. Normally, Ahmed would not involve Rachel in his business — he is very traditional that way — but she can tell how upset he is, particularly since he doesn’t usually show any emotion at all. She insists that he tell her what is going on and, to her surprise, he does — even enlists her help in talking to Larry because he’s afraid Larry will think that he’s part of a conspiracy to extort money from hackoff.
The three of them talk. Larry will not consider the possibility of paying the ten million and Ahmed agrees with him, although Rachel is not so sure. The men are sure that this will just lead to further demands. Larry says he doesn’t take the threat to kill him seriously. Figures if the guy was into killing he would have already killed Dom but he didn’t. But he takes it seriously enough to be worried for Louise. Finally, Larry decides that he can single-handedly write some code that will somehow defeat this guy before he can detect that the sites have been updated. Rachel doesn’t understand the technology but apparently, once an update is distributed and applied, it won’t matter that this guy still has a copy of the old source code.
The plan is that Larry will do this work; he reminds them that he was once a good hacker — wrote the “Gotcha” attack as everyone knows. Meanwhile they will pretend to negotiate with Yasir as long as they can keep him going. Try to bring down the price, even though Larry says there’s no price he’ll pay. Try to find a way that Yasir can assure them that he won’t just come back for more once he’s been paid. Stuff like that.
But there’s a problem. Larry can’t work on this during the day because he’s got to be a CEO and also because he doesn’t want Dom to find out what’s going on. He is absolutely adamant that Dom not be involved in fixing the problem — that Dom not even be told that there IS a problem, given how he felt to begin with about the Jenin Group having the source code. And, because of the way they protect the source code, Larry can’t work on it out of the office. Also, it’s very sweet really, even though he says he’s not worried about getting killed himself, he doesn’t want to expose Louise to any danger. And he doesn’t want to tell her what’s going on any more than he wants to tell Dom — less maybe.
“You never got to know Larry,” says Rachel, “but once he made up his mind, it just didn’t change.”
So Rachel came up with the idea of the fake affair. It gave Larry a reason to stay late at the office and away from Louise. Ahmed hated it, of course. But he also felt so bad about the extortion and the threats and everything that he let them go ahead with it. The idea amused Larry, although he felt bad for Louise. But he knew he was protecting her, too; and he was sure he could make it up to her later. He’s pretty sure Yasir isn’t really going to try to kill anyone; that’s just a threat, and not one it does him any good to carry out even if he can. Once the threat is over and Yasir doesn’t kill him, then Larry figures he’ll be able to tell Louise.
“Of course,” says Rachel, “that’s part of why I had to tell Louise. I knew Larry meant to, and it would be too cruel just to leave it the way that it was. Especially since there was no longer any threat.”