The Program Ch. 03byewebie©
Sometimes I do wish I could just get rid of my day job and write. It would probably give me fewer grey hairs... I'm too young to be going grey. But I love my job, even if it is ridiculously time-consuming. So until I win the lottery, sign a multi-million dollar book deal, or somehow randomly find myself swimming in cash, we're all doomed to slow updates from me.
Chapter 3... Sadly lacking any great sex. Don't worry, there's definitely more to come. A bit of time to flesh out the characters, a bit of time to set up the rest of the story. But I do like to keep things interesting. I hope you enjoy it.
Thanks for reading!
Bill groaned, the lurching motion made his head hurt. He pressed his eyes shut in an attempt to calm his stomach. Nothing good would come of being sick. He opened his eyes slowly, squinting with the constantly changing light.
"Hey there, boy scout."
Bill blinked, a pair of familiar green eyes coming into focus. "Taylor?" He furrowed his brow. "Where are your glasses?" She looked like the same Taylor he knew. She smiled and the crease in his brow deepened; Taylor didn't smile like that. He glanced around, the sight of buildings flashing past the tinted windows of the SUV left him nauseous and he turned his head, the motion irritating what had been a dull throb emanating from the base of his skull. He winced.
"How's the head?" she asked softly, her fingers stroking through his hair. It felt nice, soothing even. "Sorry about that. I hope Wilson didn't hit you too hard. It was the only way we could keep you from becoming suspect."
Wilson? Bill blinked again. What was that about being suspect? He tried to remember the morning and it made his head hurt. It was more like a lucid dream than reality. No one expected their peaceful company to be raided with bombs and smoke and people in flack-jackets. Wait, Taylor was wearing a black flack-jacket. He sat up quickly, the sudden change in altitude caused his head to spin and made him wish he were still lying in her lap. "Suspect?" he croaked.
"VanTerran was going to think you were a plant if we let you walk free. That wouldn't have been the best thing for the longevity of your life." His brows knit together. Plant? Taylor tilted her head to the side and raised a brow. "You know, you weren't even supposed to be there. I did just about everything I could think of to be sure you didn't make it in today."
"Everything you could..." Bill shook his head for a minute. "Wait! You killed my car?!"
Taylor gave a small laugh. "And cut your power, and deactivated your cell phone. You know, you're quite persistent when you want to be." The small smile on her face irritated and confused him further.
"Why would you do that?" he demanded.
Taylor shrugged. "It would have been easier if you weren't there. Now we're going to have to revise our plan."
"What plan? Taylor, what's going on?" he pleaded.
She had the courtesy to look contrite. "Look, Bill. I know that you're confused, and I promise I'll fill you in when it's appropriate. But for now, it's better that you don't know."
"Don't know what?" he exclaimed.
A large man, sitting shotgun in the SUV, cleared his throat and twisted toward Taylor. "Want me to knock him back out for you?"
Bill couldn't help but hear the amusement in the man's voice and he felt his cheeks colour. Taylor rolled her eyes, "No, Wilson, thank you. He'll be fine." Wilson, Bill thought. So that's the guy that hit me. Or, sucker punched, more like. He decided not to like Wilson.
"You know," Wilson eyed Bill. "He looks kinda like..."
"Shut up, Wilson," Taylor said softly. "Besides, we're nearly home."
Bill shot a glance at Taylor, "Home?"
She smiled, but the expression seemed cold. "Langley."
Bill sighed and rolled the Styrofoam cup of coffee between his palms. He'd made the mistake of trying the sludge that someone had put in front of him, and it wasn't a mistake he'd make again. He glanced up at the two-way mirror and frowned. He'd been sitting in the interrogation room for at least two hours and hadn't seen a glimpse of a human being since he'd been told to take a seat. Taylor had disappeared when they entered the building, striding away in a heated argument with Wilson and leaving him to the care of a guy that reminded him of a linebacker in an Armani suit.
This whole thing was surreal. Yesterday, he knew exactly where he was going in life, he knew where he was working, he knew what he was supposed to be doing, and he knew the people around him. Now, he had to admit that he knew very little. It was frightening. And he was so hoping that he'd wake up in his apartment and this whole day would be nothing but a bad dream. Maybe he'd eaten something weird before he went to bed... No more Taco Bell, he told himself. With another sigh, he rested his forehead on the backs of his arms and closed his eyes.
The door clicked open and Bill snapped to attention, eyeing Wilson as he walked into the room. He wasn't as big as Bill had originally thought. Probably an inch shorter than he was, but Wilson was broader. And his presence was intimidating. "Mr. Martin, I'm Officer Wilson." He looked up from the file he was carrying and tossed it on the table.
Bill rubbed the back of his neck absently, "I think we've met."
Wilson raised a brow. "I suppose we have. Now, Mr. Martin, I have a few questions for you. As I understand it, you've been working for one Jason Matthews and one Chad VanTerran for the past few months. What exactly have you been doing for them?"
Bill furrowed his brow. "You mean, what's my job?"
"Sure," he said with a sardonic smile. "Let's start there."
Bill shifted under Wilson's gaze. "I um, yeah. I'm a programmer. I write code."
"And what have you been working on recently?" Wilson perched on the side of the table.
Bill shook his head, "I dunno. There are usually about ten different people writing code on any given program. I work on firewall and security, mostly."
Wilson snapped his fingers and stood. "Good. Excellent. So then you should be able to explain why, with all the security you put on this program, your company is set to siphon off money from each and every user that purchases it. You should be able to explain why the failsafe firewall has a backdoor built into it. And you, who wrote all this code, really ought to know why the bank accounts that are set to receive all this money are all in your name."
Bill felt his eyes grow wide. "I'm sorry?"
"You're going to be," Wilson muttered.
"Wait," Bill objected. "Wait, you think that I..." He gestured ineffectively.
Wilson tapped the file on the table. "Frankly, it wouldn't make any sense at all for someone else to do you a favour like this."
"I have no idea what you're talking about!" Bill cried.
Wilson smiled. "I'm sure you don't."
"No, honestly, I've never heard about this before."
"So, you just wrote the code and didn't realise that you put in a backdoor, hm?" Wilson picked up the file and flipped through it. "Doesn't sound plausible for someone from..." he raised a brow. "Notre Dame? How unethical."
"No. No!" Bill shouted. "My code was perfect. None of that stuff was in there."
"Settle down," Wilson snapped.
"Why? Are you going to hit me again?" Bill knew it was a bad idea to shout as he rose from the chair, but he was way too frustrated with the day to think about it. "This is bullshit. I gave in my piece and that was that. There's no crime in doing my job!"
"Actually," Wilson set a hand on Bill's shoulder, pushing him back down into his chair. "The crime is the fact that this money leaves the country. It makes it my business. And last I checked, there aren't many legal places to be funnelling money in," he consulted the file again. "Afghanistan."
Wilson leaned over the table, his nose only inches from Bill's. "That makes it my problem," he growled. "Now, I'm going to let you think about this for a few minutes, but funding terrorism is an act of treason and that carries a life sentence. Do you understand me? The rest of your life in a tiny box about a quarter the size of this room."
Bill couldn't seem to get his voice to work. His mouth opened and closed like a fish out of water. Life in prison? He hadn't done anything! Panic gripped him and he thought he might pass out. Wilson picked up the file and tapped him on the shoulder with it before leaving the room. The sound of the lock clicking into place was like a punch in the gut. Bill dropped his head into his hands. There was no way this day could get any worse.
Taylor crossed her arms over her chest, the movement accenting her breasts in the snug, blue, button-down shirt she had changed into. She leaned against the wall and watched the video feed of VanTerran as he watched Bill's grilling. VanTerran wasn't going to break and she knew it. It pissed her off. Matthews had practically cried when she confronted him. He didn't know anything though, and he wouldn't rat on anyone else. Stupid fucker. VanTerran wasn't going to feel guilty that someone else took the fall. He needed his cage rattled.
Wilson returned to VanTerran's room and hauled him out of the chair, perhaps he was a little more rough than necessary and a smile flicked across Taylor's face. She slipped into the hallway. As Wilson walked VanTerran around the corner, she pretended to examine her nails. "Hey douche bag, how's the nose?"
VanTerran froze, the expression on his face animus and cold. "I should have known," he hissed.
Wilson seemed to know what she was doing and took a step back. Taylor smiled. "Aw, that's cute. You probably should have. Instead, I get to put you in prison for the rest of your life. And that makes me happy."
"You little bitch," he growled. "You have nothing on me. I'll be out of here before the day is over. Then I'll kill you." VanTerran straightened, shaking Wilson's hand from his shoulder.
"Aw, now that sounds like threatening a CIA Officer. I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to do that." Her voice was saccharine sweet, but her eyes were hard.
"You're just bitter that I wouldn't fuck you like all those other little girl interns we've had."
So that was why there were no female employees. If he was trying to get under her skin, he succeeded. Taylor's eyes narrowed. "I don't go for guys with dicks the size of my little finger."
She could see the vein in his forehead bulge as his face changed colour. She knew she had him just before he snapped. He lunged, grabbing her shoulders and trying to wrestle her to the ground, but Taylor was ready. She drove her knee into his groin and let him drop to the floor. She pressed the pointed heel of her boot into the soft skin under his chin to make sure he was paying attention. "Don't ever touch me again."
She withdrew her foot and turned to leave. Wilson snorted as he hauled VanTerran back to his feet. "I'd listen to her. She bites." Taylor strode down the hall, her heels clicking along the tiled floor. Wilson watched her leave, an appreciative glint in his eye. As amusing as it was to see her in his clothes, he loved to see her in her own, well-fitted pantsuits. Later, he sighed and gave VanTerran a shove down the hall.
Taylor took a moment to straighten her shirt before unlocking the door and walking into Bill's interrogation room. He didn't look up from where his head hung in his hands. "Look," he croaked. "I wish I could help you, but I honestly don't know what's going on."
She actually felt bad. Poor guy had been through the ringer twice today and it wasn't even time for dinner. "You look like you need a cup of coffee."
His head snapped up and he blinked. "Taylor?" The hesitation in his voice and the sceptical look in his eyes actually evoked a pang of guilt. "What..." he sighed and shook his head. "Treason?"
"Not here." She indicated with her head. "Let's take a walk."
"Am I under arrest?"
"No," she smiled gently. "Come on. Coffee." She turned on her heel and headed out into the hall, sure that he'd follow soon enough. He wouldn't want to stay in that room anymore than he'd want to stay in a prison. His shoes thudded on the floor as he dashed to catch up.
He followed in silence for a few minutes, looking up and down the hallways curiously. "So, I'm not under arrest?"
Taylor laughed. "No, you're not. Here, this is my office." She opened the door to the plain, unadorned room. "It isn't much, but I've got some fresh coffee." She handed him one of the starbucks cups and gestured to the open chair opposite her desk. He hesitated, as if he were afraid the chair would eat him. "Sit, please." She smiled as he perched gingerly in the chair. "Look, I know you're confused. Everything said here is entirely off the record. So, what do you want to know?"
Bill stared at her blankly and she worried that he was broken. She sighed and ran a hand through her hair, took a sip of coffee, leaned forward on the desk, and laced her fingers together. "Ok then, how about I start?"
Bill nodded and took a sip of his coffee. "Please?"
"You were, unfortunately, working for a company that had its hand in some very bad things not restricted to theft, money laundering, and funding some unsavoury people."
"I didn't know," he interrupted. "Taylor, I swear."
She gave a small smile and held up her hand. "I know, Bill. Your job was what you were hired for: simply writing code. And you did that. The small extras had nothing to do with you, they were added after you submitted."
"Then, what was all that about me being a terrorist? And accounts being in my name?" he exclaimed.
"That was a show for VanTerran," she said bluntly. "There are actually accounts in your name. There's one for every employee of the company. It's a deflection to share the blame. Again, I'm sorry if Wilson was rough on you, but it had to look convincing. If I'd debriefed you, your reactions wouldn't have been as honest. We needed honest."
"Honest? I honestly thought I was going to jail," he blurted out.
"I know. I'm sorry." She knew he'd be frustrated, but she was also hoping he'd understand.
A loud beep interrupted their conversation as the intercom buzzed to life. "James!"
She rolled her eyes and pressed a button on her phone. "Yes, Patrick?"
"Meeting starts in five. Get your butt in here or I'll kick it halfway to Milwaukee."
"Fine." She pressed another button and the intercom clicked off. She sighed again, and gave Bill a weak smile. "Look, I'm going to have Larson come and debrief you, then you're free to go."
"Go?" he sputtered. "Where? It's not like I have a job anymore."
"Larson will fill you in. Don't worry, Bill. We're not going to leave you hanging." She stood and straightened her shirt.
"JAMES!" The voice squawked.
"God damnnit, Patrick, I'm coming!" she shouted. She sighed and gave Bill a small smile. "Sorry, he can be rude."
Bill furrowed his brow. "James?"
She chuckled and held out her hand. "Officer Taylor James of the CIA." She grinned as he tentatively shook her hand. "Nice to finally meet you."
Bill finally understood what people meant when they referred to being 'Down the rabbit hole.' First of all, Larson, the guy Taylor sent in to debrief him was the same linebacker that had abandoned him in the interrogation room. Bill didn't trust the guy, but he didn't have much choice either. He was fully debriefed then given a nice little vacation package for the next month. When he came back, they would have lined up a job for him. Apparently, not everyone in the company would be getting the same treatment, but no one else had been summarily knocked unconscious either.
What really bothered him was Taylor. He couldn't get over her. He really thought he knew her. This only confirmed the fact that one, women were complicated and two, he was way too trusting. Then again, VanTerran had been fooled too, so maybe it was ok. Maybe she was just really good at her job.
Larson was studying him carefully from the other side of the desk and it made Bill uncomfortable. "So?"
Larson frowned slightly. "You seem familiar. Have we met before?"
Bill shook his head. "I'm sure I'd remember you."
"Must have one of those faces, hm?" Larson slid a piece of paper across the desk and tapped the bottom with a pen. "I just need you to sign here."
Bill glanced up, his train of thought broken and squinted at the paper. "What is it?"
"Standard non-disclosure agreement. You don't talk about what happened, to anyone, period. And you don't sue over that little bump you've got there." Larson leaned back in the chair and Bill was pretty sure that the big man was capable of squishing his head with one meaty palm.
"I suppose I'm not allowed to leave without signing it?"
Larson laughed. "No, you're not. But really, it's pretty standard. And frankly, you'd never get away with suing us anyway."
Bill frowned. "I feel like I should have a lawyer read over this or something."
Larson shrugged. "Be my guest. Officer James drew up the papers herself, though. So I'd bet my right arm that every 'i' is dotted and every 't' is crossed."
He felt like he shouldn't trust Taylor. He felt like he was being foolish. But something told him to just get it over with. He wouldn't walk out the door until they were satisfied that he would keep his mouth shut. Bill sighed and signed on the dotted line.
"Thank you, Mr. Martin." Larson took back the pen and filed the document. "Come with me and I'll show you out."
Bill's brows shot up. "Out, like, out out? Like I can go home out?"
Larson nodded. "Unless you want some more of Patrick's coffee."
Bill shook his head vehemently. "No, thank you. Home would be perfect."
Larson smiled. "Well, alright then."
Taylor rested her chin in her palm and drummed her fingers on the immaculate table. She was bored. Tired and bored. Tired, bored, and fidgety. She wanted to go home. It wasn't enough to be back in her own clothes, she wanted to go home and shower and feed her cat and sleep in her own bed. But Patrick was being anal again. Ripping apart each and every second of the mission. Did it go perfectly? Of course not. But nothing was perfect. This was a damn close approximation to perfect though.
"James, why did you feel the need to strike the prisoner?" Patrick asked.
God he was annoying some times. "Why have I felt the need to hit you in the past, Patrick?"
Patrick frowned. "Officer James, please answer the question."
Wilson nudged her under the table and she shot him a dirty look. They all wanted to get home. "Fine," she muttered. "The bastard had it coming."
"He had it coming?" Patrick snapped. "You broke his nose!"
"And I'm proud of it. First of all, he was trying to run." Taylor shrugged. "Secondly, the fucker tried to touch me. I don't like people touching me. And he was a douche bag. He deserved it."
"I assume that the touch you're referring to is the same as in your previous report?"
"Yes. The same. He would have raped me if he could. Happy?"
Patrick opened his mouth to rebuke her, but the door swung open. "What?!" he spun on the officer standing breathless in the entryway. "Monty, what do you want?"
"James, did you leave anything important at the apartment?" the young man asked.
Taylor frowned. "What, like the front?"
Monty nodded. "Anything of value?"
"No," Taylor shook her head. "I think I cleaned it before I went in. There was never really anything there though. Why?"
Monty winced. "It's gone."
"What's gone?" She was on her feet.
"The apartment. Burned to the ground about an hour ago." Monty saw the look on her face and regretted what he had to say next. "It gets worse."
"Tell me," she commanded.
"I ran a check through the different services. There are at least seven people from the company missing or dead, three turned up shot. I don't have the details, but I'm sure they'll look like gangland murders. Two of the partner companies have gone off the grid. It's like they didn't exist. And there have been four other house fires this afternoon. I'm not positive, but I think they're all employees'."