US Highway 6
There was something like a river, but just barely so. It wound around collecting what were called “runs” - the local name for creek - by the handful. You could tell it was barely a river by the way it divided onto streams which were like foothills in the past – connecting directly into the Allegheny River and not dividing the way a large river would send off spurs. The direct route was Pennsylvania highway 44, but most of the regulars – as the consultants called themselves – new that the better was a bit more complicated than that. It was a sign that you were going to stay, when one of the long-standing types would take you aside and explain the better route you.
Further up the Allegheny Reservoir was as mighty as it got, in terms of water. But it dried up quickly until it was a shadow of itself. Some people talked about deer being plentiful in olden times, and that is what they would say they were looking for. But no one saw a deer which was shot, only manhandled – which meant, probably, that it had been run over. And they chuckled. Over two counties away there were grand mansions, from the time when oil was discovered here, and there were buckets of antlers hanging across the wall. They also did not take kindly to outsiders there – possibly because outsiders would ask where all the game had disappeared to. In a way it was a northern part of the South – think “The Bear” out of Faulkner – then any place which was out of the north. But there were pockets that were Dutch – Deutch not meaning German but “ the land” itself – which meant that there was friction. Just a little further to the north, in New York state, it will be recalled that the territory was northern, and so there were territories which could be called “Penntucky”, while a bit further on they had been settled by English people coming from the north. This meant that you had to be careful where you put up for the night. One wrong move and you would be told that there was no rooms available – or even worse that they did not like your kind. Lady consultants heard this far more often, and the Company simply did not allow them to try their hand after they had lost more than three to, not angry – exactly – but with that stiff, stern - and territorial way - that certain people had.
The reason for this was that Sebastian and Scott were held for a week, because the mother of the cable company had decided that they had done something wrong. Which - in a manner of speaking – they had, that is they angered her by getting to close to her secret. So Sebastian and Scott were not going anyplace, until the mother of the cable company said so. But in the in which they were in, the management was furious. They want to depart their baggage – that is Sebastian and Scott – but before they could do so they received a call telling them that they were going to allow these two people to stay. Nevermind that one was Indian, and that both were not of the socially conservative milieu, what angered them was telling them what they could or could not do with people staying with them. Of course in a slightly larger town they would have had some department, or other, looking through their books – but not in such a town as this. But while they seethe, for the moment there orders came from on high – not the government, but a short lady who had everything to say about it. And that was that.
But what was even more annoying was the way that all of the excessive phones were used by Sebastian and Scott – because they were not going to be throttled in their business. At least four or five times a day, they were not very gently reminded that they could only use an outside line for 30 minutes. And by Tuesday they would comply, and then dial it again. Also by Tuesday the realized that the food was nasty, for them, and so they ordered out to the pizza place – which was the only place that could deliver starting at 11 AM. By Wednesday they were both in the same room, talking to each other about SQL and Linux, and everything else which mystified the management. He could not understand why Program Director, was in fact, the program director. In fact last time he had seen him he was shuffling papers on which was written Chinese or Japanese. Did not understand why this was necessary. The man's earnest gray eyes and blonde mustache were always bright and prompt, as if he were communicating with his girlfriend – or girlfriends.
“We need to do something.”
Sebastian looked up, and looked directly in to Scott's eyes, there was no more niceties between them, instead Sebastian was almost as mischievous as a man could be. It had been a slow process, but when he was drunk, he told Scott many things that he should not have told. For example, he told about how he had a mistress – in addition to his wife of record, and another wife which mysteriously was not told about. He also related what he knew about the cable company, and he was not surprised that the Director was not who he said he was. He took all of this with aplomb, even when he was sober.
“To do you have in mind? There are many candidates, but which one would be the most profitable one for us, at this very moment. I assume you do not mean the management of this fine establishment.”
“The wife, obviously.”
Sebastian moved in his chair, and settled his pen down by his knees. “ I do not think that will be a good idea. Largely because I think that when we go through all of the details, the wife's name will not be on anything – and I do mean anything – which we can pin on her. Her husband and sons – yes. But her – no. I say this because this is not the only corrupt place. And, if I may say so, we do very good business maintaining corrupt corporations. And we get out in time, such as Getting out from underneath Enron. That was not an accident, and this will not be an accident either. Remember, it is not the most deserving person, it is the one that we can grab with confidence. And that means the wife is out.”
“Are you sure that Enron is going down?”
“I am positive, and what is more I saw the internal argument that you put up. And that means your certain as well.”
“Yes, I am. But I just wanted to test you. I will not do it again, because you have been on the straight and level with me. I just wish that to colleagues of mine - who do not work for this company - would listen to me."
“Scott, if they do not listen to you, then maybe it is a sign.”
Scott was not really a business person, but he had been learning. He thought about what Sebastian had said to him, and then replied: “ I suppose that must be the case, but we could extract certain people who we know are innocent.”
“Do you have anyone in mind?”
“Yes, actually, I do.” He explained the situation, detailing every bit of responsibility that certain people had. He then got out a note pad – and checked off who was good and who was bad. After that they then decided who they were going to save, who they were not, and who they did not have the reach for. The real question was the Program Director – he of a truly short life. The problem was he could reach in to what they were doing, and even if he was not quite that bright, could cause problems.
“I have an idea.”
“You know I am listening, what is your idea?”
“If he stays, he will go free, in the same way the wife will go free.”
“Yes, that will be correct. But you clearly have some of that idea, one which has popped into your head at this that I am moment.”
“He has to blame someone. But if that fails, he will have to disappear.”
“What do you have in mind, you have something I know. What is it?”
“The wife will want her protection as iron clad as it comes.”
“Yes, and if I make my guess, she will desire to and three times the protection. Do you think we should be talking about this in this venue?”
“We can go outside, how is that?”
They packed nothing, it would just be for fresh air - or so they said. They walked across the enormous front lawn of what once was a mansion, and started down to the only decent place for food. It was only for blocks away, but it had private and secluded places with which to talk. The outside was actually rather bright and sunny, and it refreshed them both. By the time they got to the restaurant, they were both in good moods – though they wished they had been in Olean, which was at least two cuts above in the place they were both dreaming of. They sat down, and ordered, and drew the blinds.
Scott began: “It seems to me that nothing is done with out the wife's permission. But some of the things will have to have a technical direction. That means there departments in Buffalo and Philadelphia have two sign off.”
“Go on, I am not quite following you yet.”
“The only person who is at all of the places is the program director, not her husband, or her sons. To get get the family would take two.”
“Are you going to test this?”
“Mais oui.” In good Parisian French, though the syllables were definitely Parisian French, and not pronounced that way, more open in the mouth.
“And what are you going to do with this information?”
“At the right time, the program director will get an email, which will tell him that he has been had. And unless I misjudged him, he will be on the next plane out of their, in whatever direction is available.”
“And you will be sure that it will work?”
“If I can figure it out, at least two or three people will figure it out too. The only reason that this works is they have put up with the boondocks, and no one would think that anything smart – note I do not say dumb – will happen. Dumb will be the normally expected thing.”
“What happens then, because I can see that you have figured this out as well.”
“The wife will have to demand that her sons fall on their sword.”
“Excuse me? I am not converse with this metaphor.”
“If the Program Director has fled, she will demand that her three sons all go to jail. Just to be on the safe side. It is the only way that she will be totally protected, anything less will not do. I am assuming that all of the consultant firms are gone by then. And you and I will be off to other things, you within the company, I probably will go someplace else. But that is all right. Remember your making for times what the program director is making, not counting bonuses.”
“Which he is not going to procure, though unless things are done differently here he will make some money that is hidden. I have seen it often before.”
“He has zero to take on me to take the fall, and so, I want to reach through the grave and smack up side of the head; though he will not be sure when he gets on to the plane which is taking him to whichever tropical island that he will inhabit.”
Their was more in the planning, but it was gilding the lily. They ate their meal with war stories about past adventures, and then left a generous tip. The move back to the inn, the ins and outs of the planning were exactly executed, because both of them were consummate programmers.
Then they got in to a behemoth American car, and slid down the road, the roads of Pennsylvania where narrow and had moderately high cliffs, while the road ran down the middle of the highway. Then when they were in back in New York, the narrow gullies and swampy fields, gave way to enormous expenses. Obviously the wife, if not pleased was not displeased and gave them permission to travel to Buffalo and get on their planes. They did not meet anyone from the cable company, either in West Pennsylvania, and certainly not in Buffalo – where one of the sons made his home. Though he was supposedly ensconced in the running of the business – he actually rather spent time watching hockey, both professional and collegiate. They had money in both of these spheres, for the moment.
On their way back to Buffalo, escaping from the closed in landscape of Pennsylvania, beneath the shunning trees which had just bloomed in to new life that is mid spring, the twin pair of consultants were just barely smiling – which was on astonishment: because consultants never smiled. In the spring breezes and rolling waves of wind, there was a whisper that things would get better. For Sebastian, he was aware that this client was doomed – and he could do set and knife to their back and no one would figure him as the guilty party. For Scott, even if he were fingered as the guilty party, it would not matter with his connections to the US State Department, which is where he truly worked. He had a friend who went in to public service, with just a bachelors degree – one he had acquired at 19. They were friends because they both entered college quite early, and they looked out after each other.
That is what friends were for on this bright spring day, that's what friends are for he thought – as he careened about a bend in the road which would start the process of turning from a highway to a freeway. Then in a few minutes, they were back on a divided highway as if nothing could ever go wrong. But there was one small detail: should they warn the person who called himself the program director, and let him escape. That would be better, because if he were indisposed, everything could be blamed on the man who did not exist. Everything would be his fault. And that would suit the innocent survivors quite nicely, and quite profitably to.
Another thing crossed his memory, while driving on the long slow changes, a song that he remembered from years gone by came on the radio. It was the third time, and guessed that the band was getting together and producing a new album. The radio Djs could not have exactly announced, but they would put the older material in to heavy rotation, and the fans would start to look for the new album in stores. They would remember dancing to the older tunes, and hope that at least one would be a classic; or at least something which imitated a classic. It was a glorious new high on the Dow, what else could be hoped for? Even though many people did not know why.