MARK OF DECEIT
MARK OF DECEIT
A short story of psychological suspense.
“Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you.”
— Joseph Heller, Catch 22
When ambitious career girl Natalie Grainger Fox agrees to a secret meeting late at night in an underground garage, she becomes the unwilling recipient of a computer flash drive containing information that could bring about the collapse of her employer—a global powerhouse that may be guilty of financial fraud and cold-blooded murder.
One ominous sentence was about to push Natalie Grainger Fox into the fight of her life. She double clicked the email client icon from her laptop computer to wade through the dozens of emails and packed meeting calendar needing her attention. This time of year was especially crazy: preparation of the annual report. As Director of Communications, she worked closely with the executive management team in the development and production of the report.
At the top of her email inbox was a message from Tom. The subject line read, “The numbers are wrong.” Natalie frowned. Tom who? Was this some bogus email with a virus attached that managed to get past the company’s firewall? The only Tom she knew was the guy who ran the copy center downstairs, and he barely grunted a greeting at her the few times they ran into each other. Why would he email her?
Natalie inhaled deeply, curiosity getting the better of her. She clicked on the message, and then sat up straight with a jolt. Big, red letters shouted at her.
WARNING: DO NOT PUBLISH THE FINANCIALS YOU HAVE FOR THE ANNUAL REPORT. THEY’RE BOGUS.
She closed out the email and pushed back from the desk. Someone knocked loudly on her half-open office door. The sudden noise startled her.
“Come in,” she said, her voice unsteady.
Tim Hardwick, the Director of Finance, walked in and closed the door behind him. Tim ran marathons for fun. At six feet tall, with dark hair and a muscular build, he was secretly referred to as “hot stuff Hardwick” by the ladies in accounting. “What can I do for you, Tim?”
“You read my email?” He showed no interest in getting comfortable, despite the fact that Natalie’s office was outfitted with a mini sofa and two additional swivel chairs. “That was you?” she asked, perplexed.
“Delete that email. No one can track it, but it’s better to be safe.”
“Tom doesn’t exist.”