Chapter 5 - Afternoon April Fools Day, 2003 - Episode 5Listen to podcast
A short while after the last email, Dom comes to Donna’s office. She’s behind her desk at the far end of the long room, facing the door, but moves to a chair at the end of a coffee table as Dom comes in. He sits at the end of a couch across the corner of the coffee table from Donna.
The walls of the room are filled with pictures of Donna at various conferences, receiving awards, and sometimes handing oversized photo-op checks to grateful charitable recipients. There is a framed copy of the Wall Street Journal “tombstone” from the hackoff IPO next to a similar framed tombstone from the secondary.
Among the lucite and glass baubles on top of the bookcase are two with miniatures of the tombstones entombed in them. The books in the bookshelf are on finance, general business practices, business law, Bill Gates’ book on Microsoft, several Zagat guides, and a miscellany from vendors and would-be vendors, including books on good hiring practice from Sherman and Hanson Recruiters.
On the coffee table are today’s Wall Street Journal and New York Times, Cranes New York Business, New York Magazine, a pile of the most recent hackoff annual reports and an orchid.
“When are you moving into Larry’s office?” Dom asks.
“Not until the investigation moves out of it. But not long after that. You want my office when I move out?”
“No. I want to stay near the developers. Thanks.”
“You didn’t come here to talk about real estate. What’s up?”
“We have a problem,” Dom says. “Two problems, in fact.”
“We have a lot of problems including a company that Larry damn near ran into the ground. But what are the two problems you came to tell me about?”
“One: Larry’s cyberkey is missing. Two: you activated the back door for Larry’s office yesterday afternoon.”
“How do you know that? You wouldn’t log the back door, would you? I mean that would be pretty self-defeating, wouldn’t it?”
“Of course I don’t log the back door,” says Dom. “That would be self-defeating — you’re right. What happened is yesterday I went up to Larry’s office after staff meeting. Before I went, I activated the back door to ignore me going in. But, when I got up there, I saw you going in so I went back to my office for a while. Then I went back to his office. He was gone and you weren’t there either, obviously. But this morning when the cop interviewed me, he had a log entry of my going in and out of the office. That log entry shouldn’t be there.”
“Is the back door broken?” asks Donna. She looks nervous.
“No, it’s not broken. The reason the back door didn’t work was that, right after I activated it for me and Larry’s office, you activated it for YOU and Larry’s office. That overwrote my activation. You went in and out unrecorded. Then you deactivated. So the log recorded me going in and out of his office. I was surprised when the cop knew I’d been in the office — I’m not sure whether he noticed that or not — because I thought the back door was protecting me. So I looked at the log to see what had happened. That’s when I saw that you weren’t logged, even though I’d seen you go in. So it doesn’t take a lot to figure out what happened. But what were you doing in his office?”
“He is…” says Donna, “he was my boss. I went to his office all the time, remember.”
“You didn’t deactivate the log every time you went in. You didn’t use the back door. Why did you do it this time?”
“Why are you questioning me? Are we playing games? I don’t like games, Dom. I didn’t steal Larry’s cyberkey. And, anyway, I mean why did YOU use the back door? You’re the one who just quit.”
“I didn’t say you stole the cyberkey.”
“I repeat: I don’t like games, Dom. That’s your thing, not mine. Tell me what you want.”
“So why did you?” Dom replies.
“I asked you first.”
“No you didn’t. ...I thought we weren’t playing games.”
“Okay,” Donna concedes, “I went to his office for the same reason you did. I wanted to secure the cyberkey. I didn’t think he was ... rational. That is why you went in, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” says Dom. “And I agree — he wasn’t rational. I thought it was too dangerous for him to have the key. He might’ve suspected me, but chances are he wouldn’t be sure when it disappeared. He’d look at the security log and it wouldn’t show me in the office recently. He’d have to admit, to you at least, that it was gone since we agreed to keep them visible to each other and you’re in and out of his office all the time. When was the last time you saw it there?”
“I’m not sure,” answers Donna. “It’s not that I really think to look for it, but I would’ve noticed if it had been gone for long. It wasn’t there when I went to retrieve it yesterday, obviously.”
“So,” Dom says, “do you think someone stole the cyberkey and that’s why he killed himself; he was afraid that whoever had it would expose our anti-takeover defense?”
Donna thinks before answering. “Maybe, but probably not. No one’s supposed to know about the cyberkeys except the three of us. Any one of us could expose the others whenever we wanted but not without exposing ourselves. So who would steal it besides one of us? And we wouldn’t use it.”
“Maybe he told someone about it.”
“Then he would know who he told,” objects Donna. “He would have a pretty good idea who stole it. And it doesn’t make sense for him to tell anyone about it.”
“I have a worse theory,” Dom says.
“He knew he was gonna kill himself — I don’t know why — so he gave someone the cyberkey so they could expose us. He’s got nothing to lose anymore.”
“He’s got nothing to gain, either,” says Donna.
“He could be setting someone up so they could blackmail us. Maybe that’s Louise’s insurance policy. This worries me.”
“Everything worries you. Louise won’t want to defame his memory. Remember the yellow ribbon crap? She’s stuck with him through all his bullshit. If she has it, it’s insurance against us. She won’t actually use it. So, maybe your theory is right and maybe it’s not so bad if it is.”
“Well, yeah, if it’s Louise, it’s not so bad. I’m still worried, though. Especially given Larry’s latest project. You did call that off, didn’t you?”
“Didn’t have to. The way I understand it, nothing happens without Larry giving the go-ahead. You know him; alpha he kept controlcontrol-freak. And obviously he’s not going to give the go-ahead now. But we’re probably going to have to pay them for it. I mean they did do the work.”
“Pisses me off,” says Dom. “But better than having it happen. I think I would’ve blocked it but I was worried.”
“Maybe I should give the go-ahead,” says Donna. “You heard what Frank said. The customers still—”
Dom stiffens in shock. “NO. This not going to happen! What is it with CEOs?”
“Relax, Dom,” Donna says. “I was kidding. It’s not gonna happen.”
“I think I’m going to block it so there are no accidents,” says Dom.
“That’s not a good idea. You know it’s not a good idea; you told me that any emergency patch is dangerous. And we really don’t want to do any kind of upgrade while we still have those equity parasites who wouldn’t convert to cash. I’ll make sure it’s stopped.”
“I don’t know…”
“Don’t you trust me? I mean is that why you were questioning me about the back door and the cyberkey?”
“I-don’t-know,” answers Dom mechanically. “I-trusted-Larry-and-that-was-a-mistake. I learn from my mistakes.”
“You can trust me,” says Donna. “I mean Larry was treating you like shit. He forgot what we owe you; he even let you quit when there really is no company without you. I KNOW we need you. That’s why I promoted you. You can trust someone who respects you and needs you. Leave it, Dom, please. You’re the greatest, and I trust you when the time comes — IF the time comes — you’ll do what needs to be done. But there’s no reason to take that risk now.”
“Okay,” says Dom. “I guess.”