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Get Grounds for Murder when you purchase...
by John Russo
Genre: Chic Lit/Mystery Thriller
Release: October 2012
Editor: Holly Bonville
Line Editor: Val Haley
Cover Designer: Nika Dixon
Single and nearing thirty-six, Dianne Evans, computer specialist for the US Justice Department, is a compulsive perfectionist. Discovering missing material from one of the files she was transposing into the department’s new database, she was reluctant to bring it to the attention of Sam Goldman, her new supervisor, and with good reason. She had recently been transferred to Justice from IRS after she insisted that there was an inaccuracy in the new IRS auditing program she had been working on. Her IRS supervisor had disagreed and, rather than put up with Dianne’s insistence that the program was flawed, arranged to have Dianne, whom she considered a troublemaker, transferred with excellent references to the Justice Department where they desperately needed programmers with high security clearance.
Sam Goldman, Dianne’s new supervisor, had been happy to get her. Approaching retirement, Sam felt the transposing of Justice’s files into the new database would be the largest assignment of his career, and most likely the last. Dianne’s obsession with accuracy could only benefit the program.
Partway into the transposition, Dianne discovered an empty file with the heading “M. Brutus.” She tried unsuccessfully to ignore it and continue, but she couldn’t let go. How could she proceed if she were responsible for the work? It had to be accurate. Gathering up the sections of the material she was copying that had omissions, she went directly to Goldman’s office. When she pointed out the file with the missing data, he recognized that it was an active WITSEC (Witness Security Program) file. This was to be the beginning of Dianne’s dilemma and the dangerous consequences that caused a threat to her life and the start of a lasting romance.
“Oh hell, not again.” Dianne Evans, a computer specialist in the U.S. Justice Department, peered in disbelief at her computer monitor. She had recently been transferred from the IRS following a confrontation with her supervisor over what Dianne had regarded to be an inaccuracy in their latest auditing program. Now, while transposing the Justice Department files onto the new database in order to increase available memory, Dianne was suddenly faced with another discrepancy.
In need of programmers with high security clearance, the Justice Department had been happy to get her, especially after her IRS supervisor, grateful to be rid of her, had given Dianne, whom she considered to be a control freak and troublemaker, a glowing recommendation.
In a section of WITSEC data she was now transposing, she had come across a file that appeared to have been deleted except for the heading “M. Brutus.” Everything following the name was blank. Whoever had deleted it either hadn’t bothered with the heading or had missed it.
This posed a dilemma for Dianne. An obsessive–compulsive for detail, she couldn’t simply ignore it and proceed. However, after her IRS difficulties, she hesitated to bring this missing file to the attention of her new supervisor. She mentally tried to avoid her compulsion for complete accuracy. Every time she attempted to hit her keyboard and continue, her fingers fought the urge to ignore the deletion.
She just couldn't let this go. If she was responsible for the transposition, it had to be right. Gathering up the printout she had made of the deleted areas, she headed down the hall.
Dianne's new boss, Samuel Goldman, had been with the Justice Department for more than thirty years and was the complete opposite of her old IRS boss. He welcomed young talented people into his department. Now over sixty-three, he had faired well in the complex environment of the Washington treadmill and had only eighteen months to go before retirement. Although a Democrat, he had openly admired and appreciated President Reagan’s conservative approach to crime and punishment, which had given considerable credence to the Justice Department. Had Sam and his computer information been around in J. Edgar Hoover’s days, he would have considered Sam and his function an important asset to the Bureau.
Because of his easy manner, Dianne had taken a liking to him the moment she had met him. When Goldman had interviewed Dianne, he indicated that this upgrading of the Department’s massive database was to be the last and perhaps the biggest assignment of his long career. As Senior Manager of Information Processing for the Justice Department, he admitted to her that with the speed at which technology was advancing, he now depended more and more on his new wave computer jockeys, as he affectionately referred to them.
“Those higher speed computers digesting and storing years of Justice Department information on some mainframe somewhere make me grateful for two things,” he had told her. “One is that I have the expert help to get the job done; and two, I will soon be out of here. When I retire,” he added, “the most technical mechanism I plan on dealing with is my boat motor and a Shakespeare rod and reel on Lake Okeechobee.”
Now peering into his open doorway, she hated to bring her first problem to his attention.
Goldman looked up from his desk. “Yes, Dianne. Come in. What can I do for you?” He motioned her to a seat across from him.
Everything about Sam Goldman was neat and trim from his sparse, well-groomed gray hair to his one hundred-thirty-pound frame. Partial to dark suits, he added a bit of flair to his wardrobe with brightly patterned ties. According to Dianne’s thinking, he was sort of a Fred Astaire type. She liked this man and, although her current project was tediously boring, he made her and the others working for him feel it was important to the government and would lead to more rewarding assignments.
“I’m sorry to bother you with this, Mr. Goldman, but there seems to be something missing from a file I’m transposing.” Dianne was holding the printout. As she unfolded it, he slid a copy of Field and Stream to one side of his desk. Dianne pointed to the words “M. Brutus, WITSEC.” “There’s nothing in the file,” she said. “It’s blank except for the heading. Do I transpose it as it is, or leave it out of the new system?”
“Hmm.” Sam rubbed his chin. “Gosh, Dianne, some of these files do go back pretty far. That’s why we’re increasing memory to store more information. That’s also what we’ve got your associate, Godfrey, working on. He’s pulling out all the old material and creating a special new archive file.”
“I guess that explains it,” she said, relieved to think that was the answer.
“But this is not for the archive file. It’s an active one. ‘WITSEC’ stands for the Witness Security Program and it’s ongoing. There’s definitely something wrong." He quickly thumbed through the printout, and then got up from behind his desk. “Let’s go back to your workstation. I want to check this out myself.”
Although he was shorter, she could barely keep us with his smooth, lively gait as they walked back to her computer area. He’s a Fred Astaire type all right, she thought again.
“I don’t understand it.” Sam was gazing at her monitor as Dianne peered over his shoulder.
Her cubicle was set up in the same manner as George Godfrey’s, her associate next door: a U-shaped table with an HP printer to one side of an IBM computer. There was just enough room for one extra chair and a small file cabinet. George and Dianne shared the divided task of updating the system.
“Ask Godfrey to step in here.”
Dianne simply looked over the cubicle wall and relayed Sam’s request.
George joined them as Sam backtracked the CD. “Ah, Godfrey.” Sam acknowledged his presence as Godfrey leaned over his shoulder, their faces intent as they stared into the monitor scrolling back to the words “M. Brutus, WITSEC,” followed by a few inches of blank space. “Did you, by chance, pick up any of this missing file on your material?”
“No, sir. I haven’t come across that name in the material I’m transposing.”
“It appears this program has been tampered with.”
About the Author:
John Russo has had several short stories published and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize Award, a Derringer and was runner-up in Writers Digest Short Shorts Contest in 2003. Two of his short stories appeared in Level Best Books anthologies in 2005 and 2006. His debut novel, The Benny Arnoldo File, was published in 2003. His second, Indian Givers, was published in 2005 and The Vandenberg Diamonds was published in 2006. Driscoll’s Eye was published in February, 2010, and his latest, The Legacy, was published in June, 2010. In addition, he has had four E-book novellas published: Grounds for Murder in December, 2010, The Gold Eagle Mystery in June, 2011, The Antique Toy Con in December 2011, and Forecast for Murder in January 2012. He is a member of Mystery Writers of America, The International Association of Crime Writers and Sisters in Crime.
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Customer Reviews:riweber (Sunday, 09 December 2012)
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