Sean was working on wrapping up some unfinished business—routine work—which Mary had wanted out of the way before the sale of ADR went through. Sensing Mary’s approach, he looked up from his monitor.
“Sean, let’s take a little trip to the breaker room,” Mary said.
The ‘breaker room’ was in the sub-basement of the building where ADR was located. Mary liked to use it as a ‘safe room’ as it was, in effect, a Faraday cage, shielding electromagnetic waves, keeping them from going in or out.
“I’ll take it that this isn’t about the billing for those blackmail cases I’ve been working on?"
“We’ll talk downstairs,” said Mary.
In the freight elevator on the way down, Mary didn’t speak. Glancing at her, Sean noticed a hard edge in her features. Something was bothering her. Were those new wrinkles around her eyes, or was it just the harsh lighting in the cage? When the elevator came to a halt Mary lifted the gate and pressed the button for the top floor. They got out and she closed the gate again, sending the elevator on its way. They would be able to hear anyone coming back down. Sean opened the massive fire door of the breaker room and after they were in, he closed it behind them. A low humming sound filled the air. They were about as electro-magnetically isolated as two people could be in the heart of downtown Seattle.
“OK, Ms. Robinson, what’s up?”
“I saw Molly Berenson at the coffee shop this morning. We were sitting by the window talking when I noticed there was someone outside the shop taking pictures of us.”
“Are you sure? It wasn’t a some random tourist?”
“No, not by the way he vanished after we looked at him. Needless to say, Molly was pissed.”
“I can understand that. Who do you think he was working for? And why you two? You did a good job in keeping both of you out of the press during the incident.”
“The sale of ADR is part of an intricate ‘dance’ between multi-billion dollar companies. There is no telling what kind of surveillance is going on between them. I have no doubts that they would be as crass as that, although I can’t see what interest they could have in Molly.”
“No, you’re right, it probably isn’t that. It might be tied to the Billy thing. What about the Senator’s father-in-law. Roger Ramsen, Sally O’Donnell’s ‘friend?’ He looks like he might be the type who would hold a grudge.”
“It might be him—working for the Senator—or he might be doing it on his own. You are, after all, a potential claimant to the Senator’s estate,” Mary raised an eyebrow, continuing, “And that Icelandic baby of Billy’s? Or is he yours? Either way, it could be a threat to Ramsen’s daughter and his granddaughters’ inheritance if the Senator should die. You haven’t been contacted by his lawyers, have you?”
“No, they’ve been absolutely mum as far as any communication with me is concerned. That doesn’t mean they aren’t doing something. I dunno… do you think it might be Molly’s boyfriend?”
“No, what I gathered from Molly is that that affair is over. At any rate, whoever was behind this incident is up to no good,” Mary said. “It might be time for both of us to disappear.”
“But the corporation would want you to stay on after the ADR purchase, wouldn’t they? After all, it is your baby… ”
“My baby… ” Mary trailed off.
Sean sensed that that last remark had touched a nerve.
“Sean, the only thing those executives would accept from a black woman would be coffee. How many women were in the last meeting? One: me. How many black people were there? One: me. Look at it realistically. That new corporate campus they’re building in the heart of Seattle? Think about it: buying and clearing the land, right of ways, tax breaks, construction, all those decisions were made by a group of like-minded men with the same complexion. That’s why the CEO was so mad when I showed him that I could read his emails. He knows I know the score—that I know exactly what’s going on. They want to buy us out, not just for the technology, but because they are afraid of me–of what I am: self-made, female, not white, the other—I am what they can never be.”
“What about the rest of the ADR team? Do you think they’ll be able to work for someone else?”
“I’ve talked to everyone here and, after seeing the terms of the buyout, they were all on board with the deal. Most of them see this are their only chance to get a real life—and a raise. Hah. Your situation is different, of course. You’ve always been a special case, right from the day I hired you. And, of course, a lot has happened since then,” Mary smiled sweetly, “That‘s why I’m talking to you now, alone. You aren’t a ‘regular’ employee.”
“So what is the deal? I assume you, as owner, will get the biggest cut, but what’s in it for me?”
“The way it stands now, the bulk of my compensation will be in stock options, vested after three years. In addition to that, you and I are listed as ‘consultants’ for the transition. At the end of the thirty days, they have two options: hiring me as the vice president in charge of communications security with you as my junior vice president or, in what is the more likely scenario, each of us will be bought out for a lump sum and then sent on our way. It’s their usual M.O. when they buy out a company.”
“How much ‘lumpiness’ is contained in that offer?”
“A million each.”
Sean gulped. “Hmm. Very lumpy. We could both disappear real good for that amount of cash.”
“After taxes, it’s not as much as it seems. And those stock options are just a crap shoot, although I could get lucky. Who knows if Amasales will be worth anything in three years?”
“Well, it sounds like a plan, Mary. Once again, you amaze me. I’m not going to start second-guessing you now.”
“Good. I don’t want this to come between us, Sean. We have a special opportunity here and I appreciate having you behind me. I may not be 100% right about every aspect of this deal, but I do think it is the kind of thing that could easily be destroyed by too much tinkering,” Mary’s smile vanished, “OK. Back to work. And those blackmail cases? Think of it this way—it just might be the last invoice billing you’ll ever have to do!”
“That’s one part of this job I won’t miss.”