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  • This is sort of a pilot script for a police procedural series, sprouted from my very first Cowbird story. It's riveting tale of corporate intrigue and deception. All the tech lingo is true to the tech trade. If you manage to wade through the jargon you will be rewarded. Whatever you do, don't just skip to the ending.

    "Sarah recommended you quite highly, and I have learned to trust her judgment." The Vice President leaned back in his chair and pressed his fingers together. "So tell me, James, why do you want to work for us?"

    The applicant uncrossed his legs, leaned forward and smiled. "Well, Mr. Beeson, it looks like a natural fit. Your company is poised to become the market leader in big data transactional analytics, and I've spent most of my career developing data visualization methods. Your customers can't hope to digest gigs of data a day without spinning it around to see how it is trending. I can make that data dance and sing. Literally"

    That was pretty damned good, James thought, but The V.P. just nodded and threw out more bait.

    "James, here at TransFact, we give our customers not just what they want, but what they don't know they want. If a sales rep were to come to you and say 'Morgan Stanley wants to map their hedges against five possible commodity scenarios,' what would you say you could give them?"

    Pop quiz.
  • James licked his lips, looked down at his shoes, noted they were scuffed, straightened up and took a stab. "I think I would run a principle components analysis on the five scenarios and plot the spread of the eigenvectors. What's most critical for them to identify is what makes those scenarios distinct."

    "Tell me more," the V.P. answered with pursed lips, his brow furrowing slightly. "How would you visualize that for them?"

    The applicant sensed that Beeson was also winging it. Doubling down, he said, "Well, I might display a 3-D cloud of factors that they can filter with a sig slider, and size the symbols by their scores, with hot links that let them click through data tips to charts or tables that show quarterly trends for comparable investments."

    "You could do that?" The V.P. smiled. "How hard would that be?"

    James was on a roll. "Depends on what IDE plugins are available and what platforms you need to support, but I would say it looks like a day or two of full-on effort. Maybe a week if I had to start from scratch, which I hope would not be the case."

    The V.P. had been typing on his laptop while James was speaking. His hands left the keyboard and he swiveled in his chair. "I believe our code libraries enable something like what you propose, James, but let me check with our development manager.”

    Yeah, right, dweeb. You do that., thought James.
  • The VP folded his hands on his desk and looked at the applicant across his glasses. "James, the engineers and others you met were impressed with your skills and accomplishments. According to your résumé, you work for MarketMinder, with whom we compete in some areas. May I ask, do you have restrictions on what you can do going forward?"

    James thought get ready, we're almost there. He replied, "Well, I will be leaving voluntarily and won't have the baggage of a noncompete agreement. But of course I'm not free to disclose what I know about how their products work. That was part of my employment agreement with them."

    "As it would be with us, of course," the VP responded. "Our lawyer will need to see a copy of that agreement as we move forward. It's really just a formality. Is that all right?"

    Bingo, thought James. "As a matter of fact," he replied, "I thought you might ask about that so brought it with me." He pulled a folder from his shoulder bag, extracted a stapled document and handed it to Beeson. "This is my signed copy. Would you mind making a copy of it for your lawyer."

    Beeson glanced through the document. He had seen and signed many like it before. We really need this guy, he thought. The new product might never ship without him, and MarketMinder will get the jump on us again. “Sure, I’ll go and do that now. Be right back.”

    Time to make your move, Jamie boy.
  • The VP walked out of his office with the document. James counted to ten, got up and stuck his head out the door. When he saw Beeson turn a corner, James dashed behind the executive’s desk. He withdrew a flash drive from his pocket, inserted it into a USB port on the MacBook and waited impatiently for it to show up on the computer’s desktop. Opening a terminal window, James’ fingers tapped out commands. It took 15 seconds to place a file into one of those hidden folders that Mac users never see. James waited another five seconds for the flash drive to eject, and three seconds later was on the other side of the room, pretending to be looking at the photos and certificates gracing the office wall, trying to breath normally.

    Beeson returnd about half a minute later. Handing the document to James, he said “Here you go. Assuming the lawyer doesn’t raise a flag – which I doubt he will – when could you start?

    “I’ll be available in two weeks,” replied James, shifting his weight. “But nobody has discussed the matter of compensation. Is that something you wanted to talk about?”

    “Of course, James. As a start-up, TransFact can’t be as generous as an established company. But you would receive stock options, and for pay we can offer whatever you were making at MarketMinder. Fair enough?”

    James paused. His hand gripped his chin, as if deciding something important. “That’s very tempting, but I need a few days to think about it.”

    Beeson didn’t want to lose his catch. “Tell you what, James. If the CEO and CFO OK it, I’ll throw in a $10,000 signing bonus if we can come to an agreement this week. What do you say?”

    “I appreciate that, sir,” James answered. “Will you contact me as soon as you get that authorization? I can wait, and I promise not to look elsewhere before I hear from you.”

    “All right,” said Beeson. “Let’s leave it at that. I’m sure those guys will go along. I’ll have a formal offer drawn up that includes the bonus, and will email it to you when it’s ready.”
  • The two men shook hands and Beeson escorted James to Alison’s office. Alison was the HR person, whom the VP instructed to start preparing an offer. After Beeson left, James asked Alison if he could use a telephone because his cell had run out of power.

    In an empty office, James dialed a number. “Wen, we’re all set at the office. All we have to do is get together so I can give you the client. Right. So meet me at six at Frisky Whiskey’s. You know where that is, right?”

    James put down the phone and left the building. He felt tired, but pleased with his performance. Of course there was no way he would take that job. He got into his car, pulled out his phone and made a brief call. Then he drove into the city.
  • The pub was crowded when James arrived. Patrons were crowded around three TV monitors, all showing college basketball contests. The mostly male clientele was focused on comparing their brackets, so nobody took notice of James as he found his way to a booth in the back and sat down across from an Asian man wearing a dark blue suit.

    "Hi Wen, sorry to keep you waiting," said James as he slid into the booth. "It took a little longer to extricate myself than I thought, but I got the code in a better place than expected. You'll have no trouble penetrating their file system."

    "So," the man asked, "did you bring me the client?"

    James grinned and said "Absolutely." He fished in his pocket and withdrew a flash drive. Holding it up, he told Wen "You can install this wherever you want. Just run this app and you will be able to browse everything in TransFact's file system. Of course, you or your boys may need to crack passwords for some of their servers, but I'm sure that won't be much of a problem."

    Wen reached for the flash drive, but James pulled it back, saying "Now let's see your end of the deal. One hundred fifty thou. For the risks I took and for the data you'll get about TransFact's tools, strategy and code. Do you have it?"

    "Yes, yes, of course," said Wen, and reached under the table to retrieve a laptop case, which he placed on the table facing James. "See for yourself."

    James zipped open the nylon bag and peered inside. Inside it, hundred-dollar bills were stacked in regimental rows. "Looks good," said James. "I won't count it. Thank you." He placed the flash drive in Wen's outstretched palm, saying "So I guess we're done, then."
  • Wen was depositing the flash drive in his breast pocket when two men sitting at the table in front of them suddenly turned from watching the basketball game and leaped to their feet. One of them pulled a service revolver from under his motorcycle jacket and leveled it at them. The other one pulled out a wallet badge and said, "FBI, darlings! You're under arrest for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act." A woman who had been standing nearby closed in, holding a mobile phone in front of her. "Smile," she said, "you're on candid camera!"


    So absorbed they were in the b-ball match-ups they were watching, few of the patrons of Frisky Whiskey's pub even noticed the long-haired young man and the oriental suit being read their Miranda Rights and escorted out in handcuffs.

    Two grey sedans were parked in front. Wen was shoved into one, James into another. The trip to Federal District Court was short for Wen. James' ride took a bit longer.
  • It was 7:30 the next morning when James' phone chimed La Marseillaise. He hadn't slept well and hoped the call was from the attractive agent Jill who had driven him home and not that asshole Beeson.

    It was neither. "Hey James, great job you did last night. We got their embassy attaché with his virtual pants down. Sorry you couldn't keep the booty, but we'll make it up to you somehow." It was Feldman, his upbeat FBI handler, lamely trying to humor him. James was not amused. "Right. I'll take a small Caribbean island for my trouble. Whassup, dog?"

    Feldman spoke briskly. "Get your travel kit and show up at Terminal E at 730 tonight. You and Jill are heading to Zürich. Expect to be gone at least three weeks. On your flight you can read up on foreign exchange markets. Jill will have the details. Oh, if you don't have a decent suit, you'll need to get one there. And before you leave, don't forget to send your regrets to TransFact."

    "Great," James said. "I know Java, C++, Python and Perl. Now I need to know German?"

    "Code is code the world 'round, my friend, and all those bankers speak English. On the street, if and when you get outside, Jill can translate. Besides, doesn't your phone do that?"

    Well, thought James, Why not? I always wanted to get to know Jill better. "OK, Feldman. What with Jill with me there and you on my back, what could possibly go wrong?"

    "Not much. It already has. Good luck, Ace. "

    @image: Mission Impossible cast, 1970, from Wikimedia Commons, annotated
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