Tag Archives: fear

An Error in Judgement

 

Underneath an azure blue sky the trees swayed in a gentle dance with the wind in attendance. It was a bright beautiful autumn day. It was the kind of day where children want to play outside and adults secretly want to join them. Except no one in that boardroom was paying attention to the beauty outside the window.

Twelve men sat to attention. Twelve men carefully watched the only individual who was standing in the room. To say you could have heard a pin drop would be an understatement. Lives were about to be changed, perhaps permanently.

”Is that your answer Stevens?” The question was asked gently, almost friendly. But those in the room knew the dangerous undercurrent that resided in those few words.

The man known as Stevens visibly blanched. He knew he’d made an error in judgment and he also knew that it could be the end of him.

He tried to sit a little straighter.

“Well, um sir . . . I thought . . . you always say . . . um . . .”

“Do you know why I chose you for this job Stevens?”

The proverbial pin hit the floor. The man who had just moments ago spoken with such compassion in such dulcet tones, erupted.

‘WHAT THE HELL HAVE YOU DONE! YOU’RE A IDIOT! YOUR JOB IS TO CONVINCE THEM TO SIGN NOT DISSUADE THEM!”

“But I thought the good will generated by . . .

Stevens stopped speaking. Perhaps he had gone too far but he was trying to help a young family. And they really didn’t need what he was selling. There was plenty of time to make decisions like that down the road.

The room was quiet, too quiet. Stevens raised his head and looked around the room. No one would meet his gaze.

“They didn’t sign the contract did they Stevens?”

A very small voice replied, “No, sir.”

“Then you will.”

Eleven men stood up from the table and stepped back. Eleven men did their best to distance themselves from the man known as Stevens. They didn’t want anything to tarnish them. They knew the job and they knew the consequences of failure. The Boss wanted signatures.

Matthew Stevens remembered. He remembered coming to the big city for work. He met and married a beautiful woman, the love of his life. It was hard to find work for a newly minted lawyer who was pretty much run-of-the-mill. He hadn’t passed the bar with honours, he had actually just scraped by on his third try. But he had a little piece of paper that said he was a lawyer. That’s what he thought he should be doing. So he found work in small low paying law offices. He was a paper pusher. Nothing seemed to fit. Until . . .

He had received a letter in the mailbox, hand delivered. It offered him a lucrative job in a mid level Corporate Law office. He jumped. His wife was pregnant with their second child. He needed this job. So Matthew accepted the position and proceeded to push more paper. He wanted to go out in the field to sign people up for their policies. He was impatient. In just a few months he got exactly what he asked for. This was his first assignment. It was also the first time he actually read the policy.

His job was to get the head of the family to sign the contract. Simple actually. The policy would give the family security and insurance over the lifetime of the policyholder.

 

Insurance for life

                             This policy entitles the signatory Health, Wealth and Good Fortune for the length of his/her life. Upon termination of said existence, payment for the above contract will be collected:

One (1) Soul.

 

 

                             _________________________________________

                                           Policy Holder

 

 

 

Thank you for your business!

Mr. S. Atan. Esq.

 

WiFi is Free!

 

Ben was paralyzed. He couldn’t move, couldn’t react. He watched in horror as his friend of 30 years was patted down, handcuffed and walked out of the bar in the company of four very official looking men. Four, there were five!

“You can say nothing about what you think you just heard.”

The warning was issued by a quiet, almost friendly voice. But as Ben raised his head to look at the speaker, a chill ran down his back. The man almost seemed to smile. He reached out his hand and picked up the thumb drive that Stan had dropped on the table. Snap, it was gone.

And with a slight tilt of his head, so was the fifth man. Ben inhaled deeply. He felt as if he had been holding his breath for far too long. He started to hear the regular sounds of the bar seeping back into his awareness. It felt as if time was reasserting itself and Ben was out of sorts. It had happened, here, with a room full of witness who had seen nothing. They didn’t understand. He had to tell them. But what Stan had said . . . Could it be true?

Ben reached for his laptop. A good reporter never went anywhere with out it. As he opened the screen and prepared to log on, Ben wondered . . . what if . . . He put his laptop away and reached for a pen and a pad of paper. Old school it is.

The day had stared routinely. Check correspondence, do a little cleaning, a little writing and then down to the pub for lunch. Saturday was Ben’s day to unwind, read the paper, watch a little sports on the big screen. Everyone knew it. So he was surprised when Stan burst into his reverie.

“Ben, Thank God you’re here! You have to help me! People need to be warned!” As he spoke, Stan threw himself into a chair across from Ben and dropped his head into his hands. He looked as if he hadn’t slept in days. He was obviously agitated and Ben got over being surprised enough to reach out to his friend.

“It’s okay, we’ll fix what ever is broken. Just try to calm down and tell me what’s wrong.”

The man that raised his head looked haunted. He reached out his hand and dropped a thumb drive on the table.

“He figured it out.” He whispered, “Then he got proof. He trusted me.”

Ben waited. He knew his friend. He knew he needed to tell his story in his time. But Ben felt a gentle unquiet seep into his mind. This was not one of Stan’s pranks, he was scared, terrified.

Stan slowly looked around the room. Only well known regulars were in attendance. He heaved a sigh.

“I don’t know how much time I have before they get here but you have to get the word out. The WiFi is free.”

Ben chuckled, “Well, yeah! That’s what we all wanted. Free WiFi for everyone!”

Stan shook his head. “Don’t you get it? Don’t you understand? They are listening!”

Ben lifted his glass of ale. “Okay, I’ll bite, who’s listening.”

“The computers.”

His glass stopped, mid air.   “What computers?”

Stan sat back in his chair.

“Have you ever wondered how Police can get to a bank robbery so quickly when the silent alarm isn’t triggered? Or how a traveller who jokes about a high-jacking can be so accurately pinpointed? How about those calls you get where no one speaks. It’s the WiFi. It’s everywhere. The computers are primed to react to certain word combinations in certain areas.”

Ben heard the words but it was what was not spoken that had him concerned. It wasn’t Big Brother watching, it was Big Computer listening!

Stan seemed to deflate. “I have a computer hacker friend who figured it out awhile back. He collected all his data, his proof. He wanted to take it to a reporter and I suggested you. He gave me a copy.”

Both men looked at the thumb drive. “Where’s your friend?” Asked Ben.

Stan never raised his head. “Dead.” He whispered.

An oppressive silence seemed to hang in the air. Patrons laughed and ate and drank. The big screen droned on about sports and the world continued to rotate. But something intangible had just happened and it was sobering.

Ben opened his mouth to ask a question when five large, official looking men appeared beside their table. Stan started to speak as he tried to stand up but a very forceful hand stopped him. Ben started to protest until a badge was place in front of his eyes. He tried to lean back to read it but it was snapped shut.

Ben was paralyzed. He couldn’t move, couldn’t react. He watched in horror as his friend of 30 years was patted down, handcuffed and walked out of the bar in the company of very official looking men.

The message was clear:

The WiFi is listening . . .