Martha slammed her office door in disappointment. She was determined to see those reports, pondering on how to get around the security block. Then an idea sprouted from something that Lee said: I.T’s been working on their systems. Khalil Reeves was her go-to technician in that department. Besides being clever with hacks and transponder codes, Khalil has had a crush on her for the last couple of years. Time to use the old “damsel in distress” routine. “Hi, Mr. Reeves,” she said in a sweet, flirty voice. “Is your department running upgrades?”
“Goodness no,” said Khalil. “You would’ve been the first to know if we were. So, what do I owe the pleasure of your call? Having problems with your station?”
“Well, umm – you see, Lee gave me some new case files to review, but my software might be out of date. I can’t seem to navigate through the database without it asking me to enter my password all the time. Think you can take a look at it for me? Please?”
“For you? It’ll be a pleasure.” Khalil surfed through past maintenance schedules stored in the repair archives. “Strange. Your upgrades were installed two weeks ago. New software is scheduled to be installed six months from now. You shouldn’t be having any problems.”
“Really? Then something else must be wrong. My password must not be working, or was it changed without my consent? Every time I login the system, it says ‘access denied.’ Ugh! I’m so stressed. I don’t know what to do. Please
help me, Khalil.”
“Hold on a sec.” The tech agent jumped into the security firewall and fixed her password to override security. “All done. I unlocked your password, giving you access to the entire system. You should be good now, but just in
case I placed a repair ticket with one of my techs. If any other problems should surface, call me back and I’ll take care of you - your system, I mean.”
“Oh - I see. Thank you so much, Khalil.” “Anytime.”
Martha typed in her password one more time. Access granted! Finally opening John Hart’s file, she searched his arrest records. For four years,
Hart was involved in undercover operations that resulted in imprisonment or banishment of several major drug cartels and crime families in the tri-state area. “He must’ve been there the night Pagnucci died.” she thought.
John also kept a log of weekly reports sent to the state police. Not once did he mention an altercation between Pagnucci and the cops in the 14th precinct. He even noted that Pagnucci used all the cops on his payroll to transport drugs to the street dealers. “If Pagnucci had a business arrangement with the 14th
precinct, then why would they attack him? He never dealt with them. Something doesn’t add up.”
Martha typed “14th” in the search box and only one report popped up. It read that John had joined forces with the 14th precinct to raid a stash house
in Lower Manhattan three years ago. Plenty of arrests were made and large quantities of dope were retrieved. She then discovered one small detail probably overlooked. In his closing statement, Hart was recorded in saying, “none of the money had been recovered.”
She thought long and hard about this. Why didn’t John use state police officers for the raid? And why was there a need to shut down a stash house if there was no money in it? He worked with the 14th before, but Pagnucci never met them. And yet, these same cops are being charged for his murder, along with every past operation Hart orchestrated. Scapegoats?
“He did it!” she gasped. “And he’s using the 14th cops to take the fall.” Martha quickly downloaded the files and dragged them onto a memory stick plugged in the back of the computer. Hardcopies were being printed at the same
time. She stuffed all the items into an envelope and addressed it to Natalie, clipping a handwritten note onto the sheets before sealing the flap.
She was then startled by the buzzing of her desk intercom. Never is she this jumpy, but uncovering a conspiracy would rattle the nerves of the toughest human being. She took a deep breath and pressed the receiver button. “This is Combs.”
“Hey, it’s Lee. I just wanted to apologize for our conversation earlier. I didn’t mean to shoot down your theories so dismissingly. I was just following protocol. Hope you can understand. I would never dismiss anything you put in front of me, you know that.”
“It’s okay, sir.”
“The directors have been antsy as of late. They’ve been stepping on eggshells since the spike in complaints about police corruption. They want to get to the bottom of it as much as you do.”
“No need to apologize. Sometimes I can go a bit overboard with my assumptions. I shouldn’t have put you in that predicament. Going over your superiors isn’t something you need to do to prove my theories. I’m sorry, too.”
“For what? That’s how you earned your current position. You’re a damn good agent, Combs. One of my best. I want you to know that I’ve decided for both of us to talk to the directors about this John Hart file first thing tomorrow morning. I’m sure there’s a reason why it’s locked, and we’ll find out together. Sound good?”
Martha froze. She already found what she was looking for. To not make any waves, she merely said, “Thanks chief.”
What she’s done had crossed the line. Breaking protocol. Lying and stealing is not what they do to obtain information. In this case, however, it was necessary. She then just had a terrible thought: will the directors know if a file has been retrieved without authorization? Does the system keep a record of it? She made need Khalil to do another favor for her tomorrow.
As for now, she decided to keep her mouth shut and get this package mailed, even if this action costs her job. If John is guilty, Natalie will certainly blow this case wide open and bring him to justice. Speaking of mailing, the
mailroom closes at 7 pm. It’s now 6:45 pm. She had fifteen minutes.
Martha left a message on Natalie’s voicemail, briefly explaining the package. She told her not to open it until she arrived. With the package tucked under her arm, Martha strolled toward the elevators. Riding down nineteen floors in ten minutes? It can feel like an eternity as this time of night with hundreds of employees leaving at the same time. The elevator arrived with only a few people inside. She sighed in relief. It should be a fast trip. A slight hiccup, however, as each person had a different floor pressed.
Seven minutes to go and only one person left. She can make it. The elevator arrived on the tenth floor and suddenly a crowd of people crammed themselves inside, pressing every floor between ten and one. Dammit! Impatiently, Martha pushed her way out of the elevator and raced toward the closest staircase, running down and hopping over stairs like school kids in the hallway. She reached the lobby with a minute to spare, but the mailman was already loading his truck in front of the building. “Wait!!” she hollered while running through
the lobby. “I have one more!!”
The mailman stopped and jumped off the truck. Martha pushed through the front doors and held out her package. “You have to deliver this package,” she said, catching her breath. “It came straight from the director’s office and he told me that this has to go out tonight. Can you please do me a favor and add this to your list?”
“Has this been registered with the office?” asked the mailman.
“Look, most of those guys shut down their systems already and got their feet halfway out the door. Ain’t none of them gonna want to stay longer to register another package. Let’s just keep this between us for now and I’ll sign whatever needs signing tomorrow. First thing. I wouldn’t be asking if it wasn’t important.”
The mailman read the address and smiled. “You’re in luck,” he said. “Where this is going isn’t too far from my home. I’ll drop this off for you. Besides, seeing how fast you were running I’d say it is important.”
“You have no idea. Thank you. I owe you one.”
“Aw, shucks. Always willing to help a person in need. You have a very difficult job on your hands. It’s about time someone made it a little easier for
you for once.”
“Thank God for that.”
“Thank God indeed, for this is his doing. I believe I was meant to see a discrepancy in my packaging catalog so that you would reach me in time. He works in mysterious ways.”
“Heh! You believe in that stuff?”
“Most definitely. Faith can be a very powerful weapon in your life. You just have to use it.”
“I just think this meeting was an incredible case of luck. Either way, I’m grateful that it happened. Thank you, Mr. –”
“Goode. Matthew Goode. And don’t worry. Your package is in ‘good’