It was well past midnight as the driver of a BMW coupe turned into the underground parking garage servicing the building where she worked and proceeded to search for an empty spot close to an elevator. Nervousness and frustration swirled within her head as she descended deeper into the concrete structure. Every parking spot near the elevators were taken but yet if she went down any further the advantage of a quick exit from the building would be lost due to the extended time it took to escape the underground structure itself. Time, or the lack of it, was the current linchpin of her existence and if she didn't do everything right in the next couple of hours all her efforts, and possibly her life, would be meaningless.
Eventually the driver pulled into a parking spot on one of the mid-levels of the garage and proceeded to the next step in her plan. Wearing just casual slacks, a sweatshirt, and leather jacket her attire ran totally counter to the required dressed code during normal working business hours. Before leaving her apartment she had actually considered dressing up for her late-night visit but decided against it since it might raise more questions with security personnel and the small skeleton crew of office workers who watch the computers during the night.
The ride up the elevator to the ground floor reception area was uneventful. But the camera mounted above the sliding doors was proof positive that in some darken room one of the many security guards hired by her company had taken note of her arrival and had probably already alerted the guard standing watch at her first destination.
“Hello Ms. Drayton,” the security guard sitting at the reception desk said as she exited the elevator, “what brings you in this late at night?”
“Hi Roger,” Alice Drayton responded after searching her memory for the man's name. “I've got a bit of an emergency, I have a presentation this Thursday but a couple of hours ago I realized I had forgotten a vital report that I need to include. Is there anyway you can allow me to go up to my office and retrieve the thing so I can get this off my mind?”
Roger looked at Alice for several long seconds not saying a word. Fear began to build in her mind as the glorified rent-a-cop seemed to be weighing the validity of her reason for disturbing his peaceful shift. Alice knew that the company liked to hire ex-military types who suffered from an excess of testosterone and suspicion when it came to office workers like her.
It came as a shock and relief when Alice suddenly realized that Roger was just ogling her and hadn't realized the mental porno going on in his head was taking too long. “Roger,” Alice said again, “how about it?”
“Oh yeah,” he responded shaking his head while returning to reality, “that won't be a problem but you know the rules, someone has to accompany you all the way up and then back out.”
“I figured that,” Alice said nodding, not telling the man she had a contingency plan that would take care of an unwanted companion.
Roger next spent several minutes on the phone trying to get another security guard to come take his place at the desk so he would be the one to escort Alice up to her office. His hushed but serious tones quickly turned to outright pleading. It got so bad that Alice actually turned away to look over the huge lobby in an attempt not to to embarrass the man.
Alice felt some significant regret over the actions she was being forced to take. The company, a national known investment firm, had hired her straight out of college and given her a highly visible and well-paid position. Not out of any noble attempt to address the inequalities inherent to American business but strictly as an old-fashioned token to show a mostly disinterested population that they were not really a corrupt “old boys club.”
Since the 1980's American ideals had taken a neglected backseat to the needs of aging baby boomers whose chief concern was their retirement portfolios. In the greater scope of life what are little things like civil rights and environmental responsibility when weighed against the need for enough money so former hippies and suburbanite proles can spend their golden years drinking iced tea and playing golf down in Florida. Standing there in the lobby waiting for Roger to arrange her escort, Alice grimly smiled at calculated cowardice of it all. There was some satisfaction for her in the knowledge that all through history great powers tended to fall when narrow self-interest overwhelmed principle and thoughts for the future.
“Okay, Ms. Drayton,” Roger happily said, “I've got a guy coming to take my spot at the desk while I escort you to your office.”
Alice noticed that Roger was just too damn jovial for her present frame of mind. Back when the guy was on day shift he had hit on all the newly hired women. For the women of Alice's age group Roger's efforts were a sad comedy. Company scuttlebutt had confirmed that he was a divorced guy with two teenage kids and that ill timed flirting with one of the few senior female partners was the event that had banished him to work nights. The fact that he was closer to fifty than forty while carrying almost thirty extra pounds made his wooing of twenty-something women a joke that had long since closed the line to the other side of absurdity. The icing on the Roger's ridiculous nature was his neatly trimmed goatee that suggested the only person he truly loved was the guy that stared back at him in the mirror.
Minutes later, after another security guy relieved Roger they are riding the elevator to the floor where Alice's office is located. “Hey Ms Drayton,” Roger said in another attempt to engage her in conversation, “ did you catch the Braves game last night?” Apparently Roger somehow knew Alice grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, a fact that sent unwanted chills down her spine.
“No I didn't, I was with my boyfriend,” she answered in an attempt to shut the man up. Her response only cause Roger to chose a new line of questions.
The arrival onto the floor where Alice's office was located brought with it a welcomed silence where Roger just followed closely behind. A quick flash of her card key unlocked the door allowing Alice to enter. While security was tight the company didn't allow guys like Roger wandering around inside offices where there was sensitive material lying around. So Alice actually welcomed the idea of not having to smell the man's cheap aftershave.
“I'll just be a few minutes Roger,” Alice said after reaching her desk. This was the point of no return, the mere fact she was turning on her computer would alert the cyber-security types who would be able to backtrack every one of her keystrokes. The trouble was that she needed time and having Roger close by would not allow her accomplish the task.
“Roger,” Alice said, “would you come here. I'm not quite sure what's going on with my computer.”
Now had middle-aged Roger been more interested in his job than scoring with the young Alice Drayton he would have declined and forced her to leave the building until such time the proper technicians arrived in the morning. But seeing an unexpected opportunity he rushed in to play the rescuing hero only to receive the sensation of a sharp, thin needle penetrating his fleshy butt as soon as he leaned over close to Alice.
“What the hell,” he said quickly standing up and backing away. The mixture of compounds in the hypodermic auto-injector quickly flushed all through Roger's blood system first making him dizzy then causing the man to collapse on the floor. Alice suspended her normal human compassion because time was quickly counting down, the security guard down in the lobby would surely call Roger in a few minutes.
Alice pulled the small thumb drive from the pocket of her leather jacket and inserted it into the computer. The files she needed were quickly pulled up on the screen and then transferred to the device. At least when that part was over she breathed a fleeting sigh of relief. The next step would require some acting. Taking a moment to collect herself she picked up the phone on her desk and dialed the reception desk down in the lobby. “Hello,” she said in a panicked voice, “I'm up here with Roger and he complained about chest pains before passing out in my office. Please get someone up here quickly.”
The response time left much to be desired but eventually five security guards arrived at her office. “What happened Ms Drayton?” The night supervisor asked as a couple of others checked Roger's pulse and breathing.
Alice told a story about how Roger stepped inside the office complaining about how badly he was feeling before falling to the floor. The neat thing about Alice's story is that while there were enough cameras mounted all through the hallways on every floor, none were inside actual offices. Alice then danced about seemly scared, bordering on being hysterical to the point the night supervisor had one of the other security guards escort her out the building so they could prepare for the paramedics arriving.
When Alice got back to her little sports car she wasn't worried about them closing the gates and locking down the structure. Roger's collapse due to the drug she injected him with and her acting had all but convinced them she was just a typical woman who could not take stress. But still she hauled ass out and only felt better when she turned into traffic.
The next thing on her schedule was the rendezvous where she causally drove across town to a private airport. A sleek and foreboding Chevy Suburban was parked next a small executive jet. Inside the SUV was her contact, a man who had gone against his own bosses by giving Alice the auto-injector and coaching her through the procedures to retrieve the information she had told them existed.
"Reaper has arrived," the agent-in-charge said into a small microphone inside the sleeve of his coat.
Allowing Alice enough time to remove the thumb drive and give it to him he then asked “Did you get it all?”
“Everything,” Alice responded watching him hand the storage device to another agent, “will this bring down the company like you said it will.”
“If the tidbits you showed us are anything like the overall package it will easily bring down the company, several government bureaucrats, and a few United States senators. The public simply cannot ignore the danger they have been exposed to because of the greed of a few elites. Are you ready to pay the price for exposing so many of the rich and powerful? Are you really ready to give up your identity, your past, and your family and begin a new life somewhere else?”
“Is our agreement still in effect?” Alice asked.
One of the other agents in the SUV had begun reviewing the files Alice stole on a small laptop. “What about it Agent Wilson” the agent-in-charge asked, “is everything there?”
“Yeah, it's all here and more. These guys and gals will be going to jail for a long time, that is if the public doesn't lynch then first.”
The agent-in-charge shrugged and then handed Alice a cell phone. She had long since made her peace with the decision to expose the company. Months ago she had said goodbye to her brother and mother even though they weren't close. So with no regret she dialed the number she had long since memorized and waited for the person on the other end to answer. Being so early in the morning she had to dial the number three times before an irate man finally answered.
“Who the hell is this and it better be important!” he bellowed into the phone.
“Hello Mr. Jackson, it's Alice Drayton I'm here to inform you there has been a data breach at the company.”
“What the hell are you talking about Drayton, what data breach?'”
Alice smiled like a cat about to eat a valuable and fat bird. “It's the Connors Chemical and Drilling files sir, the FBI now has them.”
“Oh my God,” was all Jackson could say. “This will ruin everything and everyone. How did it happen? Who gave them the files?”
“I did sir, and I am told you will be one of the first people they arrest.” Without saying another word Alice cut the connection and tossed the cell phone back to the agent.
“We're done here, lets get going.” The agent-in-charge said.