“Great view, isn’t it?” Joel Anderson watches Dean Divers gaze admiringly out across lower Manhattan from the expansive conference room of blond wood and recessed lighting.
Dean Divers, only slightly less blond and less tall than Joel Anderson, nods, then turns away from the window and directs his gaze at Joel. “So, should I be moving BubbleTrendz to New York? Closer to the action now?”
“No need.” Joel smiles. “Not in this digital age.”
A smartly-dressed assistant enters the conference room. “Everyone is here now.”
“I guess we’re ready then.” Joel lifts an arched eyebrow almost imperceptibly and the assistant leaves, returning moments later with the new arrivals.
Sam checks the fax machine at regular intervals throughout the day, but there is nothing from Dean and his alleged bankers, nor from Joel Anderson’s office, for that matter. She tries not to spy on Sandor who is now provisionally working in an office here at BubbleTrendz, sitting at a computer next to a human — an attractive young Russian named Rina. Sam can occasionally pick up fragments of Rina’s voice from down the hall, including light-hearted laughter once or twice. Sam reprimands her own anxiousness. Relax! Let him enjoy his Python code. He’s not going to out his vampire brethren while he’s immersed in a programming problem.
Sam’s cellphone jingles an incoming text message from Deborah of KFR: S&P dipped 2000 points 3 min ago! Back to normal now! ??? -d
Sam fires off her surprise in a return message, then heads for Gil’s office.
Her eyes connect with his in a meaningful gaze. “A flash crash on the stock market has apparently just occurred,” she announces.
Gil activates his stock quote app and studies it a moment. “It doesn’t show here, but these quotes are delayed. How long ago was it?”
Right, he doesn’t have the realtime stock data that Deborah is looking at. “Less than five minutes ago. A friend of mine gets real-time quotes.” She lowers her voice. “Is it hard to figure out what might have caused this?” She doesn’t mention names, but he reads her meaning.
Gil nods emphatically “Damn near impossible for me. The stock exchange is not our client, I have no way of accessing their logs and, anyway, there’s no reason a priori to assume the flash crash was caused by a denial of service.” She has clearly piqued his interest concerning the possibilities, though.
The two of them have already commiserated on various odd events of the past week. Sam decides to delve a little deeper. “Are you aware that a second offer has been made to Dean from Joel Anderson’s group?” Gil’s expression shows that he is not. She continues. “It came by fax yesterday. If Dean accepts their offer, Anderson will control sixty percent of BubbleTrendz.” When Gil says nothing she adds, “Do you think he would really accept their terms?”
Gil says nothing for a long moment. “A week ago I would’ve said ‘no way’, but now? I have no idea.” Gil gives her a puzzled, worried look. “Dean’s changed.”
The meeting has continued for more than an hour and Dean is feeling differently than he expected to. He knows it’s because he can’t read Joel today. First, the bankers have not shown up for this meeting; Dean had been led to believe it was a major reason for this get-together. Joel has not provided much in the way of an explanation, either, and has rambled on about ‘our networks’ for the past thirty minutes. A little miffed, Dean thinks to himself that if ‘hurry up and wait’ is the game today, he’s about to deal himself out. He wishes he’d not signed those papers earlier today, even though they are conditional on the bank deal. He reaches a decision and stands up.
“Joel, thanks for your time today. Sorry we missed Craig and Longhorn, but I’ve got a lot of work waiting for me back in Boston.”
Joel’s eyebrows arch slightly in surprise. “Don’t worry about the bankers. The deal is going through. No question about it.”
Dean locks eyes with Joel. “I think we’ve got a good thing. It’s unusual and I like the twist or I wouldn’t be here. But, frankly, I’d like to button up the paperwork on this.” Dean shakes his head lightly. “Is there some reason these guys couldn’t make it today?”
Joel glances at the two other men in the room; one is the man whose roast beef sandwich Sam had stared at, the other is another man who was also present at that meeting, a red-haired man with fashionable-length stubble on his chin. Joel looks at Dean and smiles. “Relax. Sit down. We’ve still got a lot to cover.”
Dean remains standing. “So what are these networks you keep mentioning?” he asks, feeling an unexpected surge of adrenalin as he looks at Joel.
“It’s a big deal in the works here,” Joel tells him evenly, with a placid face. But Joel’s pupils are like points of ice. “We’re inside a lot of firewalls, we have access to a lot of stuff. But we need it to deliver on the space-age analytics our clients will be getting from us, right?”
Dean knows he’s expected to nod at this rhetorical question posed by Joel. He doesn’t.
“We’re in a unique position to help our clients protect themselves from cyber attacks.” Joel smiles at Dean again, and with a sickening clarity, Dean realizes that Joel’s smile is wholly sarcastic. Joel gets up from his seat and walks to the window, looking out at the city below. “One service we can provide is to test the security of these systems by showing our clients how they can be compromised, overridden.” Joel is silent for a moment, before adding, “We show them how bad it could be, but also provide the solution to those worst-case scenarios.”
“Are you saying you want to hit their sites with botnets as an exercise? ”
“The NSA plays those kinds of cybar warfare games with hackers all the time,” Joel replies casually.
“Joel, my clients trust my company. We’re providing business analytics to them, that’s all. They trust my guys.” Dean is now focused on one goal, exit the deal and exit the office. It’ll be a major legal expense to undo the original thirty percent, but that’s what he’s now considering.
“Dean, I think you’d better sit down.” Joel is no longer smiling.
It’s close to five-thirty and Sam is about to tell Sandor that it’s time to leave for the day. Not a single fax came in this afternoon. She and Sandor will stay in Somerville tonight for the first time. As she is reflecting on what they might do that evening, Sandor walks toward her, with Rina and Gil.
“We’re going to a pub near Central Square. Would you like to go with us?”
Sam is startled by Sandor’s sudden social inclinations. She scans the faces of Gil and Rina; Rina is smilingly expectantly at Sandor and Gil is casting shy glances at Rina. A budding romantic triangle she thinks to herself.
“Sure!” she tells them, surprised at her own happiness.
— to be continued —