Toto’s ‘Africa’ droned on the fourth floor of PharmaCorp’s corporate headquarters. Easy listening music hits of the 70’s 80’s and 90’s was on constant play inside the building. As a way to keep himself less visibly nervous, Matthew had started to keep track of the number of times he’d heard certain songs. This was the fifth time he’d heard Toto in the span of three days.
That had been a mistake. It was no wonder weapons weren’t allowed inside the building. If Matthew had had a gun on him he’d have been sorely tempted to blow his brains out. The human brain can only stand so much Toto. If Matthew had to listen to another playback of Phil Collins’s ‘In the air tonight’ he might just turn himself in.
“Excuse me, sir or madam,” he would say. “Would you please call the police? I am here to try and steal company secrets for Northeaster Care, but I’ve just lost the will to go on. Why yes, it was Phil Collins that finally broke me. Well done.” Again, it didn’t surprise him in the least that PharmaCorp had an in-house pharmacy that sold all of its products like some new take on the old Company Store routine. Keep everyone bored, depressed, and medicated and they’d drudge along for you.
The fact that Mrs. Northeaster’s company probably wasn’t much better didn’t phase him. Northeaster Care was financing this little sting, and fantasies of Candice’s undying gratitude spurred him onward.. Also, he had distinctly heard Coldplay while walking through their corporate office. Not much better, but still more current. Certainly better than R.E.M.
In all seriousness, Matthew felt like the equivalent of a cop on a stakeout in one of those action movies. The worst part was the waiting. Five minutes of action preceded by hours and hours of waiting. At least in the movies, the cop had a partner to talk to and make witty banter with; plus the audience automatically skipped past the tedious park.
Matthew was flying solo on this and only had himself to entertain. Hence why he was drafting up a confession letter based on the banality of bland ass out of date office music.
“Mail,” he said, passing it off to each cubicle. “Here you are.”
Getting the mail room job had been deceptively easy. Even in a profitable, well run company, entry level jobs were still high turnover and there were constant vacancies to fill. The fake work history he’d drafted up- leaving out his computer expertise of course- had been readily processed and accepted, and orientation and training consisted mainly of watching a dull video and signing an NDA agreement.
Matthew had not signed his real last name, of course. His fake social security number wasn’t going to hold up to prolonged scrutiny, but Matthew intended to be out of this place by payday and back to Northeaster Care the next state over. This would take longer, but the whole idea of this was just a smash and grab.
“Thank you, sir.”
Matthew had noted that within the company there were two types of people on his delivery route. People who acknowledged his presence and people who didn’t. Planning his next steps, he paid careful attention to the people who didn’t. The folks who acknowledged the lowly mailroom delivery boy, were either decent people, or so low on the pecking order that they thought themselves on near equal footing with him.
Also, in general, they seemed more careless. Left their desks and cubicles unattended. Easier to get access and steal from, but there was little chance their PC’s had anything of value. Maybe an email or something that might hint at something larger; but nothing substantive. Nothing to report back about. Matthew had confirmed as much yesterday. He’d managed to download Anydesk and remote access several desktops to people who’d forgotten to turn their computers off on their lunch break. Trusting souls, but with nothing major to report. It didn’t help his search that PharmaCorp made more than just baby products.
There was some vague chatter about marketing working on ‘Project Sleeperz’, but otherwise it was about maintaining or severing ties with various media companies and advertisers. The ‘blue diapers for boys and pink diapers for girls’ fad they’d apparently renewed had run its course and there was much internal discussion onto whether to discontinue the line of ‘Peekers’ - named so because colors weren’t meant to hidden, so here was a diaper that could peek out and get shown off - or to try and spin reinvigoration. Perhaps make it a spring and summer line when it’d be hotter and easier for parents to forego pants altogether. It had worked with the Huggies and the denim diapers.
That didn’t smell like the paydirt that Matthew was working for, though. ‘Project Sleeperz’ was the real big kahuna. The thing that his employers and family friends needed the forewarning about.
That’s why Matthew had taken interest in the people who didn’t talk to him when he delivered memos and mail. They were the ones who were either so far up the payscale that they felt he was below their notice, and the ones so busy and focused (possibly with something very important) that Matthew’s presence barely registered to them.
This is where the big fish swam. The careful fish. The suspicious fish. Higher risk. Higher reward. He didn’t have the time to form any kind of personal relationship with them, to sucker them into letting their guard down or leaving something unattended. Matthew was going to have to be a hawk, ready to swoop down on any juicy tidbits the moment an opportunity presented itself.
Such an opportunity came just after lunch with the end of Toto’s ‘Africa’. Matthew had just finished navigating the maze of cubicles for the Sales and Marketing Department and was wheeling up to the offices of people important enough to merit something.
The label on the door read “Ennis Uggins.” Despite the ugly name, the man in the office was fairly put together. Mid to late thirties. Clean shaven and clean cut. Something of an amalgamation between the Don Draper aesthetic tempered with just middle America Dad energy. The photo of his wife and kids that Matthew had spied previously created such a narrative. A family man slipping out of fitness and into a nice comfortable dad bod.
“Mail,” he said, calling in.
The executive was already getting up from his chair. His face contorted with discomfort but he spared a glance. “Just leave it on my desk…” he squinted at Matthew’s name badge. “Mattie. Tacos aren’t agreeing with me.” The man clutched his stomach and muscled his way past Matthew and his mail cart to start hurrying off to the executive bathroom.
Mathew shook his head in disgust. First words the guy had said to him all week, and he go the name wrong. Mattie? What is it with Mattie? Did he look like a Mattie? Matthew rubbed his chin and resolved to grow a beard.
He left the mail on the desk and peered at the executive’s desktop. The screensaver hadn’t kicked in yet! Matthew had access! No password required! Right there for the picking!
Quietly, Matthew shut the office door and shuffled to the computer. He’d already made sure to muscle in the mail cart where he went. It was terribly inefficient, and any mail clerk worth anything would have been smart enough to leave the cart outside. No one passing by Uggins’ office would see an unattended mail cart, though. Matthew wasn’t really a mail clerk; so his sense of pride wasn’t in any kind of danger.
It took less than a minute for Matthew to download the remote access software and add in the programs necessary to access Uggins’s computer. By the time Uggins made it back to his office, Matthew was long gone and oddly cheery.
“She’s just a small town girl,” he hummed to the next round of music. “Livin’ in a lonely world…!”
The Air BnB Matthew was staying in was about thirty minutes from PharmaCorp’s corporate headquarters if he took the freeway. Mrs. Northeaster had booked it privately under a pseudonym and was paying for it. It wouldn’t do for him to be hiding out in a hotel. There was still long term implications dealing with his fake I.D. Payroll would figure out that his listed address wasn’t his real address in due time, but Matthew wasn’t planning on collecting a paycheck; not from PharmaCorp.
It was just past Six O’Clock when he got back and had enough time to lock the doors, draw the shades, and open up his laptop. Just as expected, he had full access to the executive’s desktop and everything saved therein.
All he had to do was wait and watch long enough for his mark to go home for the night. Then the real fun could begin. Like working in the mailroom, this was a stakeout too, but a much more exciting one. Matthew didn’t always get people, but he was infinitely more enticed watching computer screens.
This was the kind of patience that he was used to. The same tricks he’d used to fuck with scammers were the ones he was employing here. He’d found one of them with a conscience and convinced them to betray their fellows by downloading Matthew’s particular brand of spyware. The only real difference, operationally was that Matthew had to be the mole and the hacker. Thankfully he was getting paid more.
Shit. He was getting paid! Thinking of that, Matthew almost didn’t mind that he was technically slipping to the dark side.
It was nearly nine before his victim’s screen started showing signs of slowing down. “Damn this guy works late,” Matthew said to himself. Flurries of emails, speeches, and proposals, all laced with corporate speak that Matthew didn’t even try to understand. Just in case, he’d been recording the whole thing. Maybe there was something Candice and her mom could use; but nothing jumped out at him yet.
Finally, the mouse on the other end started to initiate shut down and Matthew leapt into action.
“Nope,” he said to himself. “Not done yet, my dude. Not even close.” A few quick keystrokes and he blacked out the computer screen on the other end. To anyone still at the PharmaCorp office, the monitor on that particular desk would appear asleep.
Having already hacked the webcam, he waited until his mark left the office and turned out the lights, none the wiser.
Feeling like victory was in his grasp, Matthew took the last bite of a pepperoni pizza he’d ordered, and let the sauce and cheese slide down his throat while the spice meat danced on his tongue. Pizza and Booze: The only things that tasted better when completely consumed.
It didn’t take long for Matthew to find what he was looking for, linked to a larger file labeled “Upcoming Projects.”.
“Huh,” Matthew remarked. “Sleeperz commercial First draft. This looks like something.” Tentatively he clicked and watched.
First draft was right. The audio component was complete but there was no footage on the screen; not of people. In their place was more or less rough sketches and blocking, like a cartoon’s storyboard. Through the rough outlines that blinked and flipped, it looked like a mother putting down a baby in its crib.
“For both you and your little one, sleep is important,” the soft feminine voice whispered. “Neither of you want to wake up because of a wet diaper. And leaks are the worst. That’s why we’re introducing Sleeperz nighttime diapers.”
The storyboard sketches shifted to a more professional computer animated model, one that showed only the diaper and its features.
“Sleeperz has a more absorbent core that wicks away moisture from your baby’s skin, and combines it with strategically placed cooling gel so that even the warmth of wetness won’t be felt. Your baby won’t even feel their nighttime accidents and remain blissfully asleep, ready to play in the morning.”
It went back to the flipbook-like storyboard format.
“Buy Sleeperz. Because a good night’s sleep is priceless.”
Mattie blinked when the trailer ended. “Nighttime diapers?” he asked himself. “That’s their big move?” He laughed. Candice was right. The baby industry pretty much was just fashion these days.
Cooling gel? Super absorbent core? Stopping babies from feeling like they’re peeing? What was the point? Not knowing when they were going was kind of the whole reason kids wore diapers. And all diapers had the selling point of not leaking, so why advertise it for use during a particular time of the day?
Things really had gotten to the point of a problem looking for a solution.
Nevertheless, he packaged the whole file up and sent it to Candice. Maybe she and her mom would use the info to announce their new line of daytime diapers or something.
Imagine Mattie’s surprise when he woke up the next morning drenched in his own piss.