Everyone on the floor was moving toward the boardroom. In the Sales and Marketing Department Cindy was still finishing what was on her desk, and trying to catch on to the flow, when her buddy Chad returned from lunch.
He was wearing the overcoat that made him look kind of dashing, if in a goofy good-natured way.
She said, “What are you doing?”
“I`m just getting back from lunch,” said Chad, without looking at her, placing his bag on his desk which was next to hers.
“Don`t you know that the merger meeting is about to happen?”
“Why aren`t you in the boardroom?” asked the tall, dark haired Chad.
“I`m just about to go,” said Cindy, standing up and pulling down her sweater to straighten it.
She had decided to go with her black skirt and pumps today. She didn`t dress for the merger meeting even though it was a big deal … her olive sweater flaunted her breasts, but not for any special reason … every now and then she liked to look sexy.
“Are you coming?” she asked, ready to go without him.
“I`m coming,” he said, lazily.
In a few seconds they joined the crowd of Hack employees in the boardroom. The faces were all familiar but because people were talking about a merger with Laird Business Machines everything was a little new.
Hack made office machinery too, and technically Laird was going to buy Hack, so it wasn`t a merger so much as an acquisition.
Cindy and Chad joined the room last, and tried to appear unrushed while taking their seats far from the other end, as the Chief Acquisitions Officer, Evan, sold them on the proposal.
“Everyone`s here now, I see, so let me go over the advantages of joining our company,” said the man with a European accent. “When you join Laird you join an organization, a business with a different environment. We are based on the old business model, respect for authority, hierarchy, efficiency …”
Cindy looked around, and saw she was only one of a handful of women in the room. Hack was already male-dominated, and she hadn`t heard good things about the work environment at Laird.
But she was keeping an open mind.
“I notice that there are several women in the room,” said Evan. Then he coughed and proceeded with a little difficulty. “This is one difference I can tell you that is straightforward. At Laird, we operate on the traditional model, meaning that there are no women in the boardroom. At Laird we believe in a solid organization which is based on a traditional hierarchy … meaning that all of the women within our organization are in primarily subservient roles. This is best model, for an efficient business.”
Cindy looked around the room, catching the few other women looking uncomfortable.
The Chief Acquisitions Officer went on, but didn`t expand on the supposed division of the sexes at the company which was proposing to acquire Hack.
When the meeting ended, people from the Laird team were going to have a follow up meeting with a group of senior people from Hack.
But this meeting, between the upper management from both companies, was going to take place away from the office. While they went to the nearby restaurant Cindy noticed that some people from Laird left their briefcases in the boardroom.
So while everyone went back to their workplaces Cindy slipped back inside the meeting room, finding that she could open one of the visitors` briefcases.
This was unbelievable … Laird was coming out with a new printer, and the vaunted new machine was directly in competition with Hack. Yet the briefcase contained all of the specs. Based on the merger, or acquisition, Hack shouldn`t still be competing with Laird on the leading business printer, but Laird was assuming they were going to have a merger.
Here, Cindy had the LX16 Printer right in front of her, and all of the dizzying frontline features were described in depth.
She was familiar with printers … in fact she sold, and supported them, every day, month after month.
For a moment Cindy thought about telling Chad. But instead, she scanned the dossier on the LX16 at the nearby scanner.
She could tell Chad later, but for now, it was pretty obvious that the merger wasn`t going to happen, and so Laird had just fallen victim to industrial espionage.
When the stolen material was back inside the briefcase she retreated to her desk.
Chad was seated nearby with absolutely no idea of what just happened. At least he wasn`t at the restaurant with the others, thought Cindy.
Upon her desk was a floppy disk that contained the specs on the new Laird printer … the one which they had worked for so long on.
“Do you really believe that we`re going to be acquired by Laird?” she asked, with her finger poised on the floppy disk.
“That seems to be the common view.”
“You don`t seriously believe it?”
He was now back to work, looking at a work order, and he barely looked up and shrugged.
“Well, I don`t believe it.”
This time Chad looked puzzled.
But Cindy wasn`t going to tell him yet … instead she took the floppy disk and went to the copy room.
She figured that twenty-five copies would just about cover it. She would make twenty-five copies of the LX16 that she could distribute to the company, and she would write a cover letter, saying that since they had the dossier there wasn`t any reason to merge.
After five minutes with the marvellous machine she had her copies, and she typed a cover letter, and signed it, and attached one letter to each of the copies. All this was done before the two companies got back from their lunch, as odd as that seemed.
Finally Cindy handed a copy, with a covering letter, to Chad, from the stack on her desk.
While he read it, he pointed to the pile of documents on her desktop. “You might want to hide those,” said Chad.
She opened the bottom drawer to her desk, and reluctantly hid them. “Why do you say that?” she said, as she placed the copies inside the desk drawer.
“Well, because we`re in merger talks,” he said. “How can you commit espionage against a company when we`re about to merge with them?”
“You`re assuming the merger is going to go ahead,” said Cindy.
“You`re assuming it`s not going to go ahead.”
“You heard what just happened in the boardroom … about the work environment at Laird.”
“But if the merger does go ahead then you`re screwed.”
“If the merger goes ahead then I`ll probably quit,” said Cindy.
Chad looked at her, while holding the stolen dossier. He raised his eyebrows and said, “Then you`ll be out of a job.”
Since he was seeing it for the first time he didn`t have as much time to process it, thought Cindy.
His words stuck with her … then you`ll be out of a job.
She had to admit that she a decent situation. She didn`t like the sound of those words …
But the best thing was not to merge, and take all the best features from the LX16 and use them in Hack`s printer.
There was no word on whether the merger was going to happen after the team from Laird came and got their briefcases from the boardroom, but Cindy wondered if she would stay on if Laird acquired her company.
She had only told Chad about it and the twenty-four other copies were safe in the locked desk drawer.
She could trust Chad, but at the moment she didn`t plan to go any further.
A few days later there was still no word on the merger, and then Chad asked to meet somewhere away from Hack.
There had been a tension between them, and now Cindy thought that he had made up his mind, and she was grateful.
She had asked to meet him somewhere, over coffee or drinks, to discuss the espionage, but until that day he declined.
But now, when Chad asked to meet her away from the office, she believed that he had finally decided to join her.
“Where would you like to meet me?” asked Cindy, thinking about some bar or restaurant.
“I actually thought that we could meet at your place,” said Chad.
“My place?” said Cindy.
“I think that`s the best arrangement.”
It wasn`t too messy, she thought. “All right,” she said.
“I`ll be by after work,” he said. “At around say, eight o`clock …”
He was going to join her side, and oppose the merger.
At around eight, Chad came up to her apartment, and he knocked. Cindy was wearing casual clothes, a loose sweater and jeans, although she had freshened up, and tidied her blond hair.
When he stood in the doorway he seemed a little taller than at work, but that was because their floor was wide open at work.
“Can I come in?”
“Why don`t we talk about it in the kitchen,” said Cindy.
They went into the kitchen which was like the office, bright and well lit.
As soon as they sat down he looked a little sheepish, but he had already taken off his coat, and he was in his clothes from work.
“What do you think of the merger?” asked Chad. “You and I are equal, with the same rank. What do you think of the merger with Laird?”
“I don`t think it`s going to go,” said Cindy.
“I think we disagree. Besides, I have power over you, you know.”
“What are you talking about?” she asked, smiling.
“I have a cover letter, which you signed.”
“Yes, but I showed it to you in confidence.”
“I could still go and show it to everyone else, though.”
“I suppose you could.” She was smiling, because she always liked him. Now she was in a compromising position, though. “So what do you want?”
“Sex,” he said.
“You want to have sex … in return for not showing everyone the letter?”
He looked at her, and nodded.
She stood up from her chair. She was aware of her posture, standing beside the table. “I could probably do that.”
“Not right here, but I could probably do it in the bedroom.”
Chad stood up. He looked her in the eyes. It was like he was looking at her for the very first time. “So let`s do it in the bedroom.”
Cindy wasn`t moving immediately … she couldn`t believe the way it had taken a turn so quickly, and she wished she hadn`t said she would go into the bedroom. “Is that why you came over?” she asked, in disbelief. She already regretted her consent, and regretted even more that she couldn`t find a way to take it back.
“I have the signed letter, with the dossier,” said Chad, trying to push her out of the kitchen, cutting off her escape route with his body.
But Cindy wasn`t one for violence … she gave her consent, and now she was stuck to it.
She had liked him before, and although she liked him less, she still sort of liked him.
“Okay, I said I`ll do it. Just give me a minute, to let me slip into something more comfortable, okay?” Her eyes pleaded with him, and he let her get away.
She went into the bedroom, and slipped into her sexy nightie. She slipped into bed, in her white nightie.
Then she shouted, saying that he could come in.