St. Louis, Missouri
41 2nd Avenue
The group of women arrived at the National Security Agency's floor in the office building. Lund led the the way through the reception area to her cubicle. Elena stayed out of the cube, keeping watch. Rose forced Lund to sit down at her workstation. The NSA employee logged into her computer. "It'll take a minute to get through all the scripts," Lund said.
Allison watched the process. "Looks clean, Rose. Doing far too much at start up, really. The roll-out and version control people need to find a way to get applications to land at night."
"We're not here to evaluate the NSA's network, Allie," Rose said. "Ms Lund, find me the purchase orders, or I'll have Allison here do it for me. Trust me, it won't look good for you to have files labelled Secret or higher accessed from your workstation under your login ID."
Lund started clicking on various icons. "Five years, you said, right?" Seeing Rose nod, Lund opened up more applications. "Okay, let's see here . . . this first entry, that was by Ray's previous assistant, but that's the code for a miscellaneous expense. She never noted what it was, but from the amount," Lund pointed at the fifty-three sixty in the far right box, "it could have been office supplies."
"Tyler would have a fit," Allison remarked.
"Tell me about it," Rose said. "Who was the previous assistant?"
"Elaine Malcolm," Lund answered.
"What happened to her?"
Lund shrugged. "I heard she got a promotion, but I haven't seen her at all. There was a rumour she had to be moved out of the department because of an office romance."
"Allie," Rose began.
Allison picked up a pen and a piece of scrap paper. "I'll get on it when I have a machine," she said. "I miss my laptop."
"Ms Lund, print out all the miscellaneous expenses and all the 'office supplies' for the past five years."
"All?" Lund asked. "That'll take some time."
"All. Allie, what's your opinion of Amber's computer skills?"
"Geez, Rose, ask me something easier."
"Have you seen her use a PC?"
Allison shrugged. "She and I don't spend much time with each other. If she as geeky as she acts, I'd say she can use a computer better than most people. Don't ask her to hack into anything, though. That'll be beyond her."
Rose flipped open her cell phone and dialled home.
St. Louis, Missouri
198 Addison Avenue
Amber picked up the cordless phone on the second ring. "Velasco home," she greeted. "Rose! Can I go and help you yet?" The green-haired woman's entire body exuded disappointment. "You don't have much to do here, though. Oh? Sure!" Amber perked up. "I can do that! I think Allison left you online."
Carrying the cordless phone with her to the computer in Rose's dining room, Amber continued, "Who am I looking for? Never heard of her. Okay, okay, Rose. No need to get upset." Amber sat down at the PC. She called up a browser. "I can't believe you still use Internet Explorer. Want me to get you a real browser? Just asking. Okay, it's running. Give me a moment." The green-haired woman found an online phone book. "How do you spell the name?" She nodded. "M-A-L-C-O-L-M. First name Elaine?" Amber entered the information and pressed enter. "Nothing. Wait, let me try something. First initial E. Ah, this works better."
Amber read through the entries. "What are the chances she had a sex change?" She winced. Rose's voice could be heard coming from the receiver. "Just asking. There's an Edward and, well, who knows? Wait, before you go, let me try something else here." Amber opened a second browser and started a new search. "Rose, I found your Elaine person."
St. Louis, Missouri
41 2nd Avenue
"Good work, Amber," Rose praised. She borrowed Allison's pen and paper and wrote down an address. "Now go take it easy. I know, Amber, but you've been shot. That means you have to slow down. Ask Maria to make lunch for you." She hung up and shook her head. "We need to get her to a doctor soon."
"What's the news?" Allison asked.
"Our good friend Mr. Sexton is living with Elaine Malcolm."
Lund looked up from her computer's monitor. "What?"
Allison smirked. "Now isn't that interesting. Perhaps the rumours weren't rumours after all."
"That lying son of a bitch!" Lund snarled. "I can't believe he'd do this to me. That bastard!"
"Ms Lund, the expenses?"
Lund opened a new window on her computer and typed in a query. "Oh, I'll get you your information. The printer's outside his," venom dripped from the pronoun, "office. You'll start seeing things there soon enough." The woman typed furiously on her keyboard, her desk echoing the thumps when she stabbed at the enter key.
Rose looked over at Allison, who responded with a shrug. "Go get the printouts," Rose said. "See if there's anything there that might help us."
Allison nodded, then left the cubicle. A laser printer fired up, going through its warm up process. Lund kept working on her machine. "If that son of a bitch thinks I'm taking the fall for everything he's done, he is sadly mistaken." Soon, pages were running through the printer.
"Rose," Elena started, "you're thinking of going to this Malcolm woman's home, aren't you?"
Rose nodded slowly. "It's the best lead we have. Amber gave me the address. Once we're done here, we can go."
"Just don't forget why we're after Sexton, Rose," Elena warned. "Stopping him from destroying the Canadian frigate, not revenge."
"I know, Elena. The revenge is just a benefit in this case. No one goes after my family like that."
Elena shook her head. "Just keep your wits together. You're not the only one here."
Rose nodded. She looked over Lund's shoulder. "How much is there?" she asked.
"You wanted five years' worth of data," Lund said. "This is just the beginning."
Allison returned with a sheath of papers. "Okay, this is interesting. I'll have to run the numbers myself, but it looks like Sexton's been running his own covert squad for some time. Nothing major, but I'm surprised no one from the General Accounting Office has done an audit." The brunette shuffled through the print outs. "Like here. Really, three thousand in 'office supplies'. The military doesn't pay that much for pens."
"I'm sure I could find similar invoices at work, Allie," Rose said.
"Unspecified or untraceable supplies, Rose? Have you ever tried getting a spindle of blank DVDs from Tyler? Pens, not so much a problem until she realizes we've gone through five boxes of them in a week, but anything bigger gets her notice."
"Okay, Allie, but what does it mean to us in the here and now?"
Allison shrugged. "It's a pattern. The problem is finding out what the purchases really were." She kept flipping page after page. "Oh, now here's where it gets interesting. A flurry of purchases under Ms Lund's name."
The administrative assistant looked up when she heard her name. "Let me see."
"Here. Check lines eleven through seventeen, inclusive." Allison handed the sheet of paper to Lund. "An afternoon of purchases, including one entered as a shipping package and one as a FedEx off site mail out. The rest of the afternoon is listed as – yes, you guessed it – 'office supplies' and 'miscellaneous expenses.'" Allison set the papers down. "Something's been happening here for a while, Rose."
"Make a photocopy of all the pages, Allie. Leave the copy on Mark Darren's desk, then we'll leave. We have a former employee to speak to."