paced nervously up and down the corridor. She just couldn't believe
all this. She ground out yet another cigarette in one of the sand-filled
ashtrays the bank provided - for the punters really. Not only could
she not access her own clients' accounts, she couldn't even get
into the bank's mainframe. Someone must have hacked around and messed
up her password and her entry code.
It was the only
explanation that fit. Very funny! Someone would pay. God, she hoped
it was just her that was affected. If the whole system had gone down
it would cost the bank millions. She hugged her arms about her body.
Why was it so damned cold in the building? Fan returned to the computer
A single lamp burned. It was her lamp at her terminal. Her own private
terminal in a sound-proofed cubicle. Fan Ho Mei-Sang proclaimed the
steel grey plaque on the stout wooden door. It hadn't taken long to
get that plaque and this personal facility. Her cream smooth rise to
the top had been meteoric. Senior Accounts Manager within two years
of leaving university. Now, only three years later, she was an Executive
Managing Director, one of only three in the bank. And, she was on the
board - the top woman banker in London. Just one small slim-legged step
from the top. Fan smiled, amused at her own ambition. She sat, demurely
pulling the shiny black skirt down a little towards her knees. She faced
Access denied... Access denied... Access denied...
For Christ's sake! She had responsibility for hands-on management of
only a few very special accounts: the elite. Now here she was unable
to get into her own bloody files! What the hell was going on? Calming
herself she tried again, went through the whole procedure from start
to finish, methodically checking every little thing. It was always human
error in the end. Or human intention. There were no ghosts in the machine.
This system was guaranteed infallible. Fan should know, she had written
the specification herself.
Fan crossed her legs. Her stockings made a satisfying sexy sound. She
rested her head in her hands and thought deeply. No possible explanation
occurred to her. She looked at her watch (The computer - glorified bloody
adding machine! - wouldn't even tell her the time) Four-fifteen a.m.
Bullshit! It must, must... must be to do with the Kenyon account. Perhaps
someone else found what she had, then pulled the plug on the whole system?
She picked up the phone. She would ring David, he'd get over being woken
up, this was critical. Then she remembered. Just last evening David
had left for Sydney. He'd still be in the air. She must be exhausted
to have forgotten. He had even kissed her good-bye. Fan touched the
spot on her cheek now. That wasn't like him. David was a cool customer.
A star that had reached its apex. Managing Director of the bank at only
thirty-seven. It was going to take a major stride to overhaul David.
Idle for a moment, tired, her chin in her hands, Fan thought deliberately
of her first computer lecture at Uni in Glasgow. The diversion might
refresh her, spark inspiration out of tedium. An Introduction to Information
Technology, the course was called. The dull lecturer with his grey back
always towards them, face constantly turned away, mumbled his pointless
speech. He was drawing, or rather trying to draw, with his dried up
brown marker pen, on the White-board. An irregular rectangle was supposed
to represent the Central Processing Unit. Meanwhile, next to Fan, Lee
had hacked into the local travel agent's system and was noting the telephone
numbers of all women under thirty who had booked expensive single holidays.
Wyeson, another friend, was fatally altering the MS DOS system of the
entire network by using wild card symbols in a most imaginative way.
Fan herself had created an horrific graphic image in streaks of running
red and was E-Mailing it to an ex-boyfriend. It was her period and she
It's just like a big calculator really, but with a massive memory.
The dusty don was trying to be user friendly.
A white boy watched in horror as his screen went into a continuous scroll
at breakneck speed. Wyeson allowed himself to exchange smiles of satisfaction
Now, she allowed herself a brief reflection of that smile, comforted
by memory. One more go. Try everything she knew. Hack it herself if
necessary. She wished they'd turn the heating up, it was freezing. Normally,
she would normally do it herself, but she couldn't even access the building's
Bad Command... Bad Command...
Six-thirty. People would start to arrive soon. How embarrassing, the
bank's sharpest programmer shut out of her own system. Fan returned
to pacing the corridor, chain-smoking, dusting dropped ash off her silk
suit. She had been so close to nailing what was going on with Kenyon.
Someone in the bank was accessing that account: her account, her client.
And they were taking away the profits like the millions of dollars were
just prawn crackers!
Fan managed a tightening of the mouth to acknowledge a joke at her culture's
expense. Her own expense. That's how she liked it. She'd make the jokes.
She'd do the mocking. It was certain that Fan would never have to serve
a drunken Scotsman with a disgusting, fat-dripping, deep-fried spring
roll ever again. The memory of those student summer jobs still haunted
her. Well now those leering, pasty, lumpy little bastards would pay
to sniff her farts. Fan was getting even in her own way. In the last
five years of massive expansion the bank had not invested a single penny
in Scotland. All decisions made on sound business principles, of course.
Kenyon though did have interests in Scotland. They had interests everywhere.
Kenyon was a real meat and potatoes account. A very thick dick to suck
as the current catch-phrase went. Fan had always hated jargon and argot
in their sector. A complete waste of time. Boys being boys when what
was needed were men. There were some hard nuts at Kenyon and the suspicion
was that their money, if not dirty, was at least grubby around the edges.
Very grubby. There had always been those rumours doing the rounds, even
when Fan was still downstairs: drugs, arms, tax evasion... Still they
were big business. If the bank lost their confidence others would follow.
It would be the beginning of the end.
Why couldnt she get into the system her system - why? What
could stop her? Think, woman! Someone was coming! Fan looked at her
watch. Seven-twenty. She didn't want to be seen like this weary, dishevelled
and stinking of smoke. Every action is a career decision, she reminded
herself. She watched as the Deputy Security Manager came up the escalator.
He was talking to a man in overalls. The sound of their voices was isolated
from Fan by a glass wall. It was that cute black guy from maintenance.
The one who tried and failed not to look up her skirt when she ascended
the stairs from her car-port. Fan had often thought of taking him home
to play. But it was indiscreet to toy with the staff. Momentarily, the
black beauty's eyes seemed to locate her presence through the glass,
but they found nothing to focus upon and he looked away. What were these
two doing on this floor, and so early? They went out of sight now into
the computer room. A bit suspicious. Fan hurried to the Senior Executive
Women's Washroom. De facto, it was her washroom as she was the only
senior woman executive. She would face them clean and fresh. There were
questions to answer.
When Fan got back to her terminal, soaped, brushed and scented, her
computer had been switched off. Fucking outrageous! She was stunned.
She'd have their balls! Through the door, she rushed to the fray -
a tigress. Something was missing. Her eye had registered a problem,
but her brain was still trying to pin it down. She ceased her storming
and stood looking back at her cubicle door, her feet still pointed towards
confrontation. The nameplate was gone. Her nameplate was gone.
Fan walked without direction, her shoulders slumped. She was in a state
of shock. Why? Why had they sacked her? What was going on? She couldn't
begin to sort it all out. Perhaps they thought that she was the one
creaming the Kenyon account? Oh no, not that - God forbid! She needed
time to think. Her wandering brought her to the monitor in the top floor
lobby. This was for general use no access hassles here. She'd read the
papers, check the markets, that always calmed her. Fan wanted to start
with the FT but before she could begin to flick through the dailies
her hand froze on the keyboard.
The Guardian had her picture at the top of its front page. It was the
one taken of she and David after they had clinched the deal with the
Germans six months ago. A moment of triumph. Her inscrutable
smile showed just a hint of the pleasure she had felt. She had wanted
to punch the air: Yes! We did it! That was the night she and David had
finally made it. There had been body language aplenty for months, but
they'd never got any further. In Berlin it had all come to a head. David
delivered champagne personally to her room and before either knew what
was happening she had turned from the report on her lap-top and they
were clutching frantically at each other. He took her first standing
up, entering her without even removing her knickers. There was no need
for foreplay, they were still up with the power - bursting after the
triumph over the Bundesbank. It was a great night, the passion heightened
by the elation of the winning. Since then, there had been a few good
screws, but nothing like that first scintillating encounter. The business.
The newspaper photograph said it all, you could read it in their eyes.
But Fan had no smile for the picture; it left her cold. The headline
this time was not in any sense inscrutable. It read Bright light
of banking snuffed out. Fan was dead. She had been since seven
p.m. yesterday. Shot on her way home from work. Foul play was suspected
and police were investigating. How reassuring. David's Judas-kiss burned
briefly on Fan's fading cheek.
© Kelvin Mason, 2001
Fiction in Dreamscapes
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