Authors: Joanne Fox Phillips
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either a product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Published by River Grove Books
Copyright ©2014 Joanne Fox Phillips
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the copyright holder.
Distributed by River Grove Books
For ordering information or special discounts for bulk purchases, please contact River Grove Books at PO Box 91869, Austin, TX 78709, 512.891.6100.
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-938416-94-1
For Clayton, Ted, and Phil
And for my brother Charlie, who inspired
the storyteller in all of his sisters
round seven o’clock on Easter Sunday morning, I pull my black Lexus into a narrow parking spot in the garage. Usually I worry about getting dinged by the pickup trucks with the spaces so close together, but by timing my visit on the holiday that is unlikely. With no other vehicles in the garage, it is as I’ve planned—no one is here to interfere.
The manila folder with the building schematic printout had slid off the passenger seat onto the floor during the drive over from my condo. I gather the papers, straightening them with a tap on the top of my thigh, and tuck them under my arm as I get out of the car and walk across the street. The absence of traffic somehow makes the building feel even more ominous than usual.
The angry presence of the giant thirty-story black granite tower looks out of place on the Tulsa skyline among its
neighbors, charming art deco buildings erected during the 1920s when Oklahoma’s second-largest city was the oil capital of the world. Tulsans are proud of their modern and their vintage architecture, but opinions have always been mixed about the Bishop building, which stands out because of its color, size, and total lack of architectural distinction.
Through the smoky glass at the north entrance, I see no one manning the guard desk. A key card is required both to enter the building and to access the elevator bank, so I push the intercom button next to the revolving door and wait. A scratchy voice asks me what I want.
“I’m a Bishop Group employee,” I say, “but I’ve forgotten my key card.” I have planned what I will say next if the voice asks me any questions and have a false identity at the ready to test how far I can get without proper credentials, but I don’t even get the chance to use it.
“Okay, I’ll buzz you in,” the voice says. There is a loud clack indicating that the lock on the main glass door to the building has been released.
“Hey wait,” I call into the intercom. “I need to get to my floor. Can someone help me out?”
“Okay,” says the voice from the speaker box, “I’ll send security.”
I take advantage of the unlocked door and wait inside. To pass the time, I look at the enormous murals adorning the lobby. They show the taming of Oklahoma: cowboys, oil gushers, and covered wagons with families.
Really horrible art
, I think to myself, and I wonder who they gave the commission to—probably a Bishop family member.
I open my folder on the counter of the empty guard station and review the blueprints one last time. Having gained access
to the building, I plan to check out the security protocol for the second level of impregnability—the automated panels that part like a subway gate and lead to the elevators when a valid security badge is swiped through the card reader. Any unauthorized person who can make it as far as the elevators will be able to access all but the executive floors, which require additional clearance. Once in, an intruder might be able to steal unsecured laptops containing sensitive information or create other problems for a controversial company like Bishop. My objective today is to see what and how much I can expect to get away with.
After a while, a blond security guard emerges from the stairwell and approaches me. He looks to be all of eighteen years old and has a single iPod earbud wire connecting his left ear to the breast pocket of a poorly fitting blue blazer with “Keith” inscribed on the plastic nameplate. Even at a distance I can detect the ferocious bass of rap music that will no doubt render him deaf by his thirtieth birthday.
“Hi,” I say walking toward him. “I forgot my badge and I need to get to my office.”
I’m careful not to say my name, and I’m pretty surprised when Keith swipes his card and follows me past the now-open Plexiglas barriers to the elevator bank. I wait for him to ask me for some sort of ID, but he doesn’t.
“Are you good, or do you need to get to an executive floor?” asks Keith.
I am caught off guard by the question. Maybe it is my Gucci loafers or the diamond tennis bracelet, or just that all middle-aged women look like executive material to a kid, but I feel flattered nonetheless. In my original plan, I never contemplated gaining access to the executive floors.
“Why yes,” I say, seizing the opportunity before thinking about it. “Thanks. Thirty, please.”
I’m going for broke here. The executive floors, twenty-five through thirty, require a third level of security and can be accessed only by a select few, including security—and, for today at least, me.
Keith flashes his card over the tiny red light and the top button illuminates. We ride up together without conversation. He seems as bored as a five-year-old at the opera, and I sense he is anxious to get back to what he was doing before I showed up. Still, I feel a brief bond when I look down and notice my right foot and his tapping to the backbeat of a Lil Wayne partying song I had heard in a Zumba class a few months back.
When we exit the elevator, Keith stands next to me as if waiting for me to give him directions. If he were doing his job properly, he’d stay with me while I’m on the floor to keep an eye on what I’m doing, but I don’t think Keith is too clear about what he is supposed to do.
I take a chance. “You know, I have my office key. I don’t need you to let me in.”
He looks relieved. “Oh, all right then.” He steps back into the elevator. “Have a nice day,” he says. I watch the elevator door close and Keith disappear. Just like that, I have penetrated the mighty Bishop Group’s inner sanctum.
Looking around the thirtieth floor, I am astonished to find that the doors to all the executive offices are wide open. I had assumed they would be locked and had thought about asking Keith to let me into one of them. Turns out I didn’t need to. I’m uncertain whether the doors have been left open by the cleaning crew or just not locked in the first place, but I delight
in the free and open access. Who knows what I might find if I rummage around?
The overhead lights are not on, but enough morning sun leaks through the open office doors for me to see my way around. Enormous bookshelves filled with expensive doodads and awards flank the elevator doors, and a fabulous antique Louis XV sideboard, bigger than most dining room tables, serves as the reception desk. The absence of the usual hums, buzzes, and beeps of normal office activity makes me aware of my own footsteps as I poke around the main area, testing locked drawers and cabinets and checking out the wastebaskets for confidential discards.
Roaming through the hallways reminds me of when, in another time and another place, I would meet my then-husband Winston for lunch or after hours to attend a corporate event. I didn’t need to sneak onto the executive floor then. “Oh hello, Mrs. Lewis,” they would say. “It’s so good to see you again. Can I get you something? Coffee? A soda?”
I have never been to
executive floor before. Peons like me are relegated to cube farms on floors with single digits. Still, the lay of the land is typical and easy to figure out. Most building plans follow the same basic formula. Corner offices outrank the other window offices, and relative square footage is based on hierarchy. Baldwin Bishop’s office is in the northwest corner and consumes about 20 percent of the thirtieth floor. There is no nameplate on the door or wall, but I know it’s his office just from the rich walnut paneling surrounding the entryway that I have read about previously in a
article. The wood was salvaged from a castle in Wales and imported specifically for Baldwin’s area.
A small vestibule where his assistant Marla stands sentry during the week is, of course, unattended, and I sit down at her meticulously organized desk to collect my thoughts and figure out what I should do next. As I sit there, I wonder if I have already gone too far by not just riding down with Keith once I’d gained access. But I may never again get the opportunity to snoop around like this. Although the office doors are open, Marla’s desk is locked, so I snoop where I can, hitting pay dirt almost immediately.
In an effort to bolster IT security, passwords increasingly require more and more complicated syntax and also need to be changed every ninety days. No longer could someone’s password simply be “password” and remain constant throughout his or her career. Further, each program has different requirements so that a single password will not work for every application. While the intention was to increase security, the result has been quite the opposite.
For the average employee, there is no practical way to keep track of the constantly changing passwords other than writing them down somewhere. The usual choices are a sticky note affixed to the underside of the keyboard, a notepad kept in the top right desk drawer, or a piece of paper pinned to the bulletin board next to the monitor. Marla, being as old and forgetful as I am, keeps her list underneath a lovely pen set given her by Baldwin to commemorate twenty-five years of devoted service.
I make note of Marla’s passwords on my iPhone. Her user ID follows the same convention as all other Bishop employees. MWALTERS, I type into the login screen of her computer, along with the password GOJayhawks!17.
flashes back at
incorrect user ID or password
. I try the next password on her list: Divalady$18. And with that, I am in.
I access her Microsoft Outlook account and think about sending a rude e-mail just for grins, but instead I scan her inbox and her sent files. From the volume of e-mail, it appears that Marla is routinely copied on Baldwin Bishop’s correspondence, probably so she can organize it into folders and protect it from the auto-purge that occurs on a rolling ninety-day interval.
A particular subject chain that piques my interest involves potential layoffs if Bishop’s maritime sector doesn’t start to improve. I read further into it. Baldwin blames the sour economy, but the consulting firm blames the inexperience of the business unit president, who as it turns out is Baldwin’s nephew Brandon. There are some e-mails about possibly moving Brandon into something else and letting one of the “go-getters” take over the reins for a while until maritime gets back on its feet. I cannot imagine the delicate balance required to successfully manage a conglomerate while protecting the egos of family members.
There is other correspondence from Building Services saying that to cut costs, Starbucks coffee will no longer be served in the coffee bars below the twenty-fifth floor. A generic brand, Best Java, will be substituted, and it is estimated that the cost savings will be over $50,000 a year.
Bummer. The nephew of a bigwig screws up and now the little guy has to drink bad coffee. Isn’t that how it always goes?
In addition to the Outlook account, Marla has a number of secured folders on her desktop that look interesting to me. I glance at my watch, though, and start to get nervous. As entertaining
as it is to read all the juicy executive correspondence, I decide not to press my luck by hanging around.