A Case of Self Defense


"Please," the blonde begged. "I've never . . . he's never been there . . . it hurts too much."

"Karen," he snapped, "this is what it's going to take to keep your job. Got it?"

She cried in response, and at that his flagging erection was rejuvenated.

This was his favorite. Of all of them, even Susan Flowers in auditing, this was definitely his favorite.


Benjamin Bradford was uncomfortable. Sure, he'd been to these soirees before, but he never fit in. Even with Jennifer at his side, introducing him to the bigwigs of Jensen National Bank and proudly proclaiming the success of his business and what a wonderful, sexy, smart man he was, he still never felt comfortable.

They were surrounded by junior and senior vice presidents, more than a hundred of them, and their spouses. All were dressed straight from Preppies R Us in their designer chinos , tailor- made blue Oxford button down shirts, and thousand dollar Italian loafers without socks. The women were similarly attired in breezy cotton blouses, pleated shorts or capris, tasteful leather sandals, and tastefully expensive jewelry. And here was Brad, in a pair of dockers and a golf shirt, Citizen EcoDrive watch rather than Rolex.

Jennifer neither noticed nor cared, though. She still proudly showed him off to her fellow workers, hand in hand with Ben, and chatted easily with all of them.

"Ben," she said, "I'd like you to meet Susan Flowers and her husband Clark."

Ben turned his head, and his eyes went wide.

"Hello, Ben," Clark Flowers said, extending his perfectly manicured hand and giving a firm handshake. "Clark Flowers."

Ben shook the proffered hand, but his eyes stayed riveted to Susan Flowers.

"Ben, honey," Jennifer giggled, "you're staring."

He cleared his throat and tried to laugh, but it came out as a choking gurgle.

"I know," Clark said, "uncanny, isn't it?"

Ben nodded. Susan Flowers and Jennifer could've been twins. Nearly the same height, about five six, both slim and blue eyed with short blonde hair.

"See anything you like?" Susan laughed, offering her hand and shaking Ben's.

His eyes traveled the length of her body, then turned and looked Jennifer up and down. "Wow," he said. "Were you two separated at birth?"

They all laughed. "Makes it hard around the office sometimes," Susan said. "People are constantly mistaking us for each other. And I think Jennifer here sometimes takes advantage of it, don't you darling?" She placed a hand on Jennifer's forearm.

Jennifer grinned in response. "If they want to think it's the Senior Vice President in charge of Auditing instead of lowly little Junior Vice President me, then who am I to embarrass them?"

"You go girl," Clark said.

"Oh honey, look," Susan said, pointing over Ben's shoulder. Ben turned to follow her finger as she spoke, "It's Alain, from Commercial Paper. I wanted to introduce the two of you, remember?"

"Of course," Clark said, turning to Ben and nodding before following his wife.

"Who's Alain?" Ben said, turning back to Jennifer.

She hesitated before answering. "He's bad news," she whispered.

Ben's eyes traveled back to Broussard. "How so?"

"Just bad news. Stay away from him."

He nodded.

"Who's bad news?" a loud voice said.

"Oh Ben," Jennifer said, tugging his hand to get his attention, "it's Mr. Jensen."

"Please, Jennifer, it's Horace," he said.

Ben looked at the man before him, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Jensen National Bank. He was short, an inch or so shorter than Jennifer, and built like a block. He had a full head of silver hair, craggy face with a deep tan, square jaw line to match the square frame, and twinkling eyes of hazel. Ben guessed his age as sixty, but he could've been ten years either side of that. Either way, he looked to be in good shape, solid and strong for so short a man. And unlike every other person there, he was dressed in a pair of faded Levis and Chicago Bulls t-shirt.

"Horace," Jennifer said, "this is my husband, Benjamin Bradford."

"Benjamin," Jensen said, an iron grip shaking Ben's hand, "I'm Horace Jensen. Pleased to finally meet the man behind our little Jennifer's constant happiness."

"Please, sir," Ben said, "it's Ben. And I'm pleased to finally meet the only other man who has apparently recognized what a special woman Jennifer is."

Jensen raised an eyebrow. "Oh?"

"Yessir," Ben continued. "I've known since I first met her that she was special, but you have thousands of employees, and you've still managed to move her up the ranks faster than most, so I know you've seen it, too."

Jensen grinned, and Jennifer tapped his arm with a fist. "Quit it, Ben," she said, though the delight in her eyes said otherwise.

"What do you do for a living, Ben," Jensen said, taking a sip of his drink.

"I'm a systems security analyst."

Jensen's eyebrows rose. "And what's a systems security analyst do?"

Ben cleared his throat. "Well, sir, we break into secure computer systems."

"So you're a professional hacker?"

"Something like that," Ben said, taking a pull on his beer before continuing. "We're hired by companies–banks, mostly, but other companies, too–to try and break into their mainframe systems. We come at them from all different angles to see how secure their systems are. The theory is that if we can't do it, you're probably safe from others. If we can break in, though, we work with the company to create protocols and security features."

Jensen nodded, thinking for a minute before speaking. "Can you wait here a minute?"

"Sure," Ben said.

"Honey," Jennifer whispered in his ear, "I think you've got his attention."

"It would be nice," Ben said, turning back and seeing the look on her face. It was hard to read. Was she excited? Nervous? "I promise," he said, "I won't embarrass you, okay?"

She nodded. "I know, baby."

"Ben," Jensen said, returning with a tall, thin, dark-haired man in his late thirties. "Ben, this is Jeff Richards, Chief of Electronic Security."

Ben and Richards shook hands. He looks nervous, Ben thought. Richards's eyes dated to Jennifer.

"Hi, Jennifer," he stuttered.

"Hello, Jeff," she said.

"Ben's a systems analyst," Jensen said. "You ever hear of that?"

"Sure," Richards replied. "They're hired to evaluate the integrity of system security."

"We have one of those?"

Richards shook his head. "Just me and our people," he said, looking back at Ben with annoyance.

He thinks his people are enough, Ben thought.

"You think that's enough?" Jensen prodded, reading Ben's mind.

Before Jensen could respond, Ben cut in. "No," he said, "it's never enough." Seeing the flash of anger on Richards's face, Ben continued. "Look, I'm sure you're more than qualified. Hell, you're probably better at my job than I am. The problem is, you're only looking at it from your angle, from how to keep the system secure. No doubt you keep up on all the new tricks. You read the manuals and the publications, and you adjust as necessary. But there's a problem with that."

Richards glared at him, but Jensen was intrigued, mulling over what Ben had said. Ben knew he had him, and he waited a minute before continuing.

"The problem," Ben said, "is that the new break-in technique has already happened before anyone could publish anything about it."

Jensen nodded, agreeing with the conclusion. "Makes sense, don't you think?" He nudged Richards, who now looked like a spring about to uncoil.

"Yes," he squeaked, clearing his throat before continuing. "Yes, it does make sense. But how do we know when you've done it? And that you won't mess anything up if you manage to get in."

Ben laughed. "Because I give you a complete audit report," he said. "And because if I screw anything up or get caught doing anything illegal, I lose my business and wind up in jail. That's why."

"Your business?" Jensen said. "You work for yourself?"

Ben nodded. "I've got employees, of course. Four of 'em. All specialists, all highly trained, and all as honest as the day is long. Mr. Jensen, we're good at what we do, and I recommend you give us a try."

Ben looked at Jennifer, who smiled at him before he continued. "If you don't want to use us, or if you thinks our costs are out of line, I still recommend you hire someone to audit your system. I'll be glad to recommend some very good firms."

Jensen beamed at him. "I don't think that'll be necessary, son," he said. He pulled a card from his pocket and handed it to Ben. "You call me first think Monday and we'll schedule a time to meet and go over the specifics. But I like what I'm hearing, and I'd prefer to keep this in house. Right, Jennifer?"

She hugged Jensen, who was at first embarrassed by the sudden show of emotion. "Thank you, Horace. You won't be disappointed, I promise."

What was that look Ben saw on Richard's face when Jennifer hugged Jensen? Was it anger? Jealousy? Lust? He couldn't tell, but it made him nervous.

He watched Richards stalk across the lawn toward Broussard and Susan Flowers. When the three were together, Richards started talking, and Ben saw three pairs of eyes turn and stare at him. He looked away, embarrassed at being caught.


Jennifer walked in the front door and laid her purse on the stand beside the closet.

"I'm home," she called, hearing voices in the back of the house.

"Family room," Ben called.

"Mommy," the twins shrieked in unison, and she heard their clumsy thuds as they ran to find her.

"Hey, babies," she said, stooping and scooping a twin in each arm.

"Ashley and me are reading," Allison said.

"Oh really," Jennifer replied, turning to Ashley. "That true?"

Ashley nodded solemnly. "The Horton book."

"Horton Hears A Who?"

Ashley nodded again and whispered, "It's my favorite."

"Not me," Allison shrieked. "I like Sam I am."

"Well I like them both," Jennifer mediated.

"Good," Ben said, smiling as he walked up and took Ashley from her arms. "Then you can read Green Eggs and Ham to them at bedtime."

Jennifer smiled as he leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. They walked into the kitchen for supper.

"How was work, sweetie?" he asked behind her.

"Long." She glanced at the clock on the stove. Eight ten.

"You knew being a veep would bring longer hours," he said. He put Ashley into her high chair and pushed it to the table before turning and giving her a soft look. "You don't have to keep doing this you know."

She shot a weary smile at him. "I know, Ben. I want to be with you." She squeezed Allison tighter to her. "And with you, you little monster." Allison giggled, wiggling as she was placed into her high chair. "But it'll only be six or eight more months. Then I'll have the systems down, the job down, and everyone else taken care of. Then I'll have my life back; we'll have our lives back."

He only nodded before turning to pull down plates and serving the food. They'd been having this conversation for the past year, and she knew Ben was losing his patience. Still, if he could just be patient for a while longer, ten months at the outside, things would settle down and they could get back to normal.

"What did Theresa make for us today?" she asked, trying to lighten the mood.

"Tamale pie," he said, scooping the casserole onto the plates.

Jennifer laughed. "You really need to ask her to make some plain food once in awhile. All of this Mexican cooking is giving me an ulcer."

Ben put plates in front of the girls, both of whom started shoveling the food into their mouths. He turned and hugged Jennifer and said, "They don't seem to mind. Besides, that's what you get for hiring a Hispanic nanny. Mexican food and bilingual children."

"Next time I'm hiring a French nanny," she murmured into his ear as she hugged him back, enjoying the feeling of his arms and body enveloping her.

"No problem," he said, leaning in and brushing his lips and tongue over her ear. "French is good," she heard him chuckle as electric shocks from his lips went into her brain.

"You men are all pigs," she laughed, pushing him away and taking their plates to the table.

When she sat, she winced with pain.

Ben noticed her grimace and raised his eyebrows.

"Fell at work," she explained. "Wet spot on the floor. I landed hard, and I think I bruised my tail bone."

"You okay?"

She heard the tone, and saw the sympathy spread across his face. "I'll be fine," she reassured him. "Just give me a few days before our next . . . workout."

He flashed a grin. "Okay. But just a few days."

She smiled back and started eating.

"So did you meet with Mr. Jensen today?" she asked.

He nodded, grinning.


His grin got bigger. "I've got it. I'll be starting soon, after I get done with some things and get the team together and briefed."

"How soon?" she asked.

He shook his head. "Not telling. Don't want you accidentally tipping anyone off."

"Fair enough," she said, pushing her mostly uneaten plate aside. "Did you get a good deal, though?"

He nodded with enthusiasm. "Oh yeah, we got a good deal all right. A real good deal."

"Well don't be too greedy, dear," she warned. "Remember, I work there."

He laughed. "It wasn't me," he said. "Jensen must've spent the whole weekend on the phone. He had rates from everyone else, knew what they all charged. When he found out I was less, he insisted on a higher rate. I tried to argue with him, but he insisted. Says so long as I do a good job, he'd pay me a fair price. If he's not pleased, he'll pay the lower rate–the standard–but he'll pay top dollar if he thinks the work is top dollar. Kind of a bonus, I guess."

Her eyes went wide. "And you think you can give him top notch?"

He nodded. "I guarantee."


Jeff Richards watched the monitor as Benjamin Bradford walked out of the elevator and toward his wife's desk. He followed the screen as she smiled up at him while Ben leaned down and kissed her cheek. She stroked his hair and murmured something to him. He laughed, and Richards wished he had audio to go with the visual.

"Keep an eye on him," Richards directed the man and woman sitting in front of the monitors. "Take notes. Wherever he goes in this building, I want to know it. He takes a leak, I want to know the size of his pecker, got it?"

They nodded and started taking notes.

"He's the security specialist," Richards continued. "He gets into this system, we may all be out of a job. Got it?"

They nodded, scribbling faster and peering more intently at the screen. They watched Ben's eyes scan over the room while saying something to Jennifer, who was logging out of her computer and reaching for her purse. Then they followed Ben from monitor to monitor as he left Jennifer at her desk to finish logging out while he walked toward the men's room. They watched him in the men's room–relieving himself before washing his hands and combing his light brown hair–and watched him leave the men's room. Then they followed him intently as Jennifer gave him a tour of her department before leading him back to the elevator from whence he came. Finally, they noted Ben and Jennifer leave the elevator on the first floor and exit the building.

None of the three paid attention to the short African-American janitor shuffle his cart into a supply closet and disappear for twelve minutes before reappearing and shuffling back down the hallway toward other offices.


Ben sat in his office workshop, staring intently at the computer screen before him. Ron Washington had hooked a palm-sized computer into the systems lines running through the supply closet, and that little miracle of modern technology was now transmitting to Jeff's office computer. He was at the portal to the system, trying to decide how best to begin.

First, he had to select a target. Whose password should he seek in infiltrating the system? He smiled. Broussard, the arrogant, smirking shit Jennifer had told him was bad news. Well, Ben thought, let's see if there's any truth to that rumor. In Username, he typed Broussard. The computer told him it didn't recognize the username. He typed in ABroussard. Again, no recognition. He nodded. This was standard. In a company as large as Jensen National, there would be any number of Smiths, and nearly as large a number of Smiths with the same first initial. It was just a matter of how many initials to use for the first name. System security rarely worried about username security; they almost always concentrated on password security. After four more tries, he finally got in on the full name: AlainBroussard.

Now came the more tedious part: cracking Broussard's password. He thought of the most obvious method, merely calling the IT help desk and requesting a password verification. Such calls were received dozens of times a day, and help desks routinely gave them out over the phone. Still, if he was unsuccessful–or if they had an extra layer of security at the help desk, such as insisting on going to Broussard's actual terminal and typing in the password themselves in front of him before confirming his password–Ben would be tipping his hand and letting Richards know he was already in the system.

Ben thus decided to start easy with a hybrid attack on the password. The easiest password attack was a dictionary attack, which battered the login screen with nearly every word in the dictionary until the password was found and entry to the system gained. Dictionary attacks worked well on invading home systems, where users are rarely security conscious and needed easier passwords so they would remember them in the future. Unfortunately, dictionary attacks almost never worked in corporate systems because corporations are far more security conscious. Still, the user had to be able to remember the password, so corporate passwords usually consisted of words joined with numbers or keypad symbols. Hybrid attack software is designed to deal with just such passwords by bombarding the system with millions of combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols until entry is gained. Depending on the complexity of the password, such hybrid attacks could take days to gain entry.

Ben decided to wait until after 6:00 p.m., the end of the work day, before starting the hybrid attack. Otherwise, there was a high likelihood Broussard could still be logged into his computer, and the system would be alerted that a double entry was being attempted. Though double entries are not uncommon–people frequently stay logged in over lunch and log in from a remote laptop while eating–Ben guessed Richards would be tracking such double entries, particularly at times when they would be uncommon.

Ben slipped the disk into his computer and fired up the hybrid attack software. He typed in Broussard's username, typed the time parameters, and left his office, locking the door behind.

Time to wait.


Ben and Jennifer walked hand in hand into their bedroom, shutting the door behind them. The girls had been put to sleep, and Jennifer was no longer sore. She was horny.

"How about a little gymnastics?" she suggested, nibbling the back of Ben's neck as he unbuttoned his shirt.

"You ready?" he said, his hands unworking the buttons faster.

"Oh yeah," she said, her tongue darting into his ear before sucking on his earlobe. She felt the shiver run through his body.

His shirt unbuttoned, he turned and pulled her close, kissing her with longing. Without conscious thought, her body responded, her tongue seeking his while her hips ground into him.

"I've missed this," she mumbled in his ear as he worked down the buttons of her blouse. Done, he tugged her blouse off and reached behind her, unclasping her lacy bra while pulling her to the bed with him.

"Me, too," he said, leaning in to lick and kiss her bare neck as he sat on the bed and pulled her onto his lap.

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