A Revolution Mini-Adventure
Janine had been working on the quarterly financial statements for the last three hours. Deciding it was definitely time for a break, she pulled out the monthly income and expense sheets and pushed her chair back from the desk a bit. That was more like it. She felt a guilty pleasure at the thought of slacking off so obviously, but it wasn’t like anyone could see her. Well, there were the caged ones hanging from her ceiling, but she had them well in line.. they wouldn’t snitch on her.. she was pretty sure, at least. Janine picked up her broom handle and poked one of them.
“Get To Work!!” She yelled. There, that would keep them fearful for the next hour or two. Definitely enough time to review the income and expense sheet. Heck, compared to that dang quarterly statement, she was practically on vacation.
Janine spent the next two hours correlating the projected expenses with the actuals and then comparing them to the statistical averages. It was all going along nicely until she reached the stationery expenses. Hmm... very strange. The actuals were a full 18% greater than the projected. And that 18% difference was a full 67% above the average deviation. Janine spent another half hour working the numbers. That 67% actually became 68% when you accounted for the inflationary bias the projected expenses contained.
A voice inside Janine’s head seemed to speak up: So what, they used more stationery than they thought they would.
But Janine had a hunch; this wasn’t merely bad projection, something was going on here.
Janine’s first step was obvious: logistics. Among other things, the logistics department was responsible for the distribution of all supplies shipped into the compound. According to payroll, the head position was filled by a Norton O. Body. In actuality, it was filled by one Kelly Haryll. Kelly was officially a garbage-man... at least Janine was pretty sure that’s what he was. He had told Janine he was in charge of ‘removals’ but when she asked what he removed, he had just laughed and said “oh, things that have outlived their usefulness.”
The higher-ups in the revolution seemed convinced that having someone in charge of two positions gave an individual too much power. And a two or three day investigation would have easily revealed the double paychecks. But Janine would be the one to do such an investigation and she didn’t see anything particularly wrong with someone being in charge of logistics and garbageing.. er.. being a garbage-man. Nor did she see anything wrong with the percentage of Mr. Body’s paycheck that was regularly deposited into J.M. Inc. (Also known as Janine Melninchuk’s Swiss Bank account)
But kickbacks aside, Janine needed to talk to Kelly: “Hey there, how’s it going?”
Kelly looked up from his computer terminal. “Hey!” He pushed his chair back and stretched his hands out. “What’s up?”
“Well.. I need a favor. I’m trying to track down where all the stationery went last month... sort of a private little audit. Think you can give me a hand?”
“Sure,” nodded Kelly. “Just let me find my corpse.”
“What?” Janine asked, uncertainty covering her face.
“My corpse,” reassured Kelly. He pointed at his monitor. “I died, and if you don’t find your corpse, someone can steal all your stuff. So you gotta find it and get your stuff back before you log off.”
Janine looked at Kelly and then shrugged. Sure, why not. She sat down and waited
“Sooo... speakin’ of corpses,” intoned Kelly. “Ya’ hear about that Concorde crash?”
Janine nodded. “Yah, that was a real tragedy.”
“Tragedy?” screeched Kelly. “That was a thing of beauty! I mean who would suspect?”
Janine was taken aback. “Suspect? Suspect what?”
Kelly chuckled. “Hehe.. yah, that’s the idea.”
“What idea?” It seemed to Janine that Kelly had some odd interests for a garbage-man.
But Kelly changed the subject. “There’s that corpse. Now, it was stationery you were interested in?”
“Uhh.. yes. Yes it was,” Janine responded, only slightly reassured that Kelly was a competent choice for the position. “You see, it seems that there was a bit of a usage spike last month and I’m trying to figure out where it came from.”
Kelly thought for a moment. “Hmm.. let me check something,” he said as his hands flew about the keyboard. Before long the printer beside Kelly’s computer was spitting page after page of numbers into its hopper. “I know what’s going on, but let’s play a little game. I’ve printed out just the summaries, let’s see how long it takes you to spot it yourself.” The printer finished and Kelly handed her a stack of papers about as thick as a bible.
Janine smiled to herself, silly Kelly. She began flipping through the stack. “Hmm.. No.. Oh, hey, I see you’ve sub-categorized everything!” she squealed with delight.
“Hey, a guy’s gotta know what’s going where...” Kelly replied modestly
“Well, that makes it easier.. let’s see.. it’s obviously paper usage that’s up.. Hmm.. Oh, that’s it – shoot.. guess not...”
Kelly nodded “MmHmm, those quarterly projected adjustments had me going for a second, but then I realized –”
“It’s only the second month in the quarter!” They finished together.
“Hehe, how silly,” Janine laughed. “But I think I’ve got it.. it’s the R&D department, isn’t it?”
Kelly halted his stop-watch. “Bang-on! Wow, only a minute and a half! You’re pretty good Janine.”
“Oh, be quiet.” She blushed. “But seriously, where in R&D? I can’t seem to find that.” Janine put the stack of papers down on Kelly’s desk.
He shrugged. “Dunno. The R&D compound is as detailed as I get; they handle their own distribution of supplies. You’ll have to talk to them for any more details” He swiveled his chair back to face his desk. “But hey, Research and Development does use a lot of stationery.”
Janine thought for a moment. “No. there’s more to it than that...”
“Mr. Farnsworth?” Janine asked, speaking to a table of five young boys; all of whom appeared to be playing some type of card game.
One of them looked up. “Yes?” he asked, in a way that struck her as very rude.
“I’m Janine, from Accounting. I need to ask you some questions.”
“Listen,” he said, not just rudely, but obnoxiously so. “I’m about to tap over fourteen blue mana which will more than assure me a crushing victory against the obviously inferior decks of my opponents. Now if you don’t mind, I’m rather busy.”
Janine tried to stay out of office politics as much as possible. But one thing she did know, one thing everyone knew, was exactly how low in the pecking order R&D geeks ranked. She also knew where their sensitive points were. “Well, it’s just that I’ve been looking into the budget of Project: Lightsaber. It seems to me that the expenditures are rather high, but I guess I can just reduce funding without any consultations. Sorry to trouble you –”
“Please, call me Doug.” The table occupants had already scattered and Mr. Farnsworth was standing in front of her. “What is it I can help you with?” His tone had noticeably changed.
That was better; it seemed they understood one another. “Paper. Your department has been using a lot of it this last month. Why?”
Doug seemed crestfallen. “Oh dear, I’m really not sure.”
“What’s that?” Janine was losing patience. “You’re listed as being in charge of supplies here. It’s your responsibility to –”
“No, listen, I’m really not sure. We just put all the stationery in a cabinet – anyone who needs something just goes and gets it.”
“And you think this system is acceptable!?” Janine blurted. “What about theft? You don’t even have a sign out sheet! Where’s the accountability?”
“Theft? Oh, no.. I really don’t think any of the guys would –”
“Wait a minute!” Janine interjected. Her hostilities forgotten – she’d just had a brainstorm. “Are you following the recycling program?”
“Well... to be quite honest, at first we weren’t following it very well. But once you sent your men around, it’s been followed one hundred percent.” He smiled nervously.
“My men?” Janine asked.
“Sure. The guards that you sent. They gave some of the boys a few good beatings. The message got through; we’ve been recycling ever since.” He smiled again.
Flashback: Janine had instituted the recycling program about five months ago. About three months ago, she had re-sent the memo to James, one of the upper managers, and asked him to see what he could do about enforcing the policy.
Janine gulped heavily. Sometimes she forgot she was part of an armed revolution. But still.. her brainstorm remained a good one. She picked up a nearby phone. “Switchboard? Yes.. I’d like you to connect me to..” let’s see, who would have those figures.. “um.. Caged One A47, please. Thanks. A47? Hi, it’s me. Can you grab the figures for last month’s R&D recycling pickup? Sure..” Janine waited for A47 to locate the figures and read them back to her. “Okay, thanks.” Janine put the receiver back on the hook and turned to face Doug.
“Well, it seems the volume of paper recycled is 29% below the volume of paper that was ordered by your department. The paper arrived, but it never left!” Doug seemed to be getting nervous again, while Janine was starting to get into this. “Additionally, given that your department uses about 58% of the compound’s stationary, that 29% deficit becomes...” Janine did some quick mental calculations. “...about 17% ... pretty close to the 18% over the total projected that I uncovered.” She leveled her gaze at Doug. “This was no mere theft of office supplies, whoever took that paper first increased the amount ordered; definitely pre-planned.”
He looked about to faint. “Hey, it wasn’t me! I don’t order this stuff.”
She folded her arms over her chest. “Well, who does, then?”
“The computer! Johnny, one of our programmers, he wrote this program that does all our ordering for us.”
Janine was sure she was onto something. “Well how does the program work?”
“It bases orders on last month’s consumption.” Doug answered.
“I think I have a few questions for this Johnny character. Let me speak to him.”
Doug looked toward the floor. “Uh.. he disappeared about two months ago. He was taken away for failing to recycle some of his scrap paper and we haven’t seen him since.”
Janine gulped again. Still, it wasn’t like it was her fault. That was the ticket: it wasn’t her fault. Still, she was definitely onto something.
“Hey,” Doug seemed to cheer up. “What if it’s being used for one of the research projects?”
Drat! Then again, maybe she wasn’t.
Her time on the R&D compound had left Janine with questions. Ones she couldn’t answer. But she knew someone who could. The trouble was finding him; he was the type of person who was always underfoot until you actually wanted him for something – then he was gone. But Janine had learned, over time, how to find him.
Some people were creatures of habits. And Sam was a strange creature, with some strange habits.
She waited until morning.
And stood in one of the hallways. Waiting. Silently.
There! Southwest of her.
Janine rushed toward the sounds. First jotting east, to a connecting corridor, then south, a quick turn west, then south again. Stop.
Again Janine waited.
She was close to their path, but still... not quite... Yes! South again, then west. She followed the corridor until it met another, then stopped.
And listened; this was it.
Before long she could clearly hear the approaching screeches, along with the cries of surprise as the screeches grew nearer.
She watched as, from around the corner, they came.
Bouncing from wall to floor to wall again, the herd ricocheted off hallway doors, ceilings, other occupants of the hallway, the carpet and especially each other. A mass of furry brown creatures in constant, frenetic motion. All the while howling at top volume.
Janine pressed herself against a wall and hoped for the best.
As the hairy, screeching mass swept past her she watched them. There he was. At the constantly moving center, was Sam. Screeching, jumping, shouting and occasionally biting in retaliation to the odd misplaced monkey-limb, was Sam. Despite a human birth and upbringing; somehow fitting perfectly into the adopted monkey tribe, indistinguishable even, was Sam.
Hoping for the best, Janine held her hands out in front of her and stepped into his path. “Sam!”
Sam stopped and hissed at her, but then seemed to snap out of some type of trance. “Hey Janine!” He said warmly. “Just a second.” The swarm was already starting to pass the two by. For some reason, perhaps her proximity to Sam, the monkeys had stopped bumping into her as much.
Sam shouted to one of the monkeys: “Marsel!” It came bounding over. Except for a few stragglers, the monkeys had already continued past them. “Marsel, you’re in charge. Finish the morning run. I’ll meet you at the training area.”
Marsel stared at Sam in confusion.
Sam, angrily, began to screech at him. Where she not actually present, Janine would have been unable to tell the difference between Sam’s screeches and those of the monkeys.
Marsel screeched back in response. It sounded... defensive.
Sam screeched again.
Marsel screeched back, then bounded off to join the now distant sounds of the pack.
“Damn it! He should be able to take verbal orders by now.” Sam turned to Janine. “So, what’s up?”
Janine briefly glanced toward where Marsel had gone. So many questions were pouring into her mind at the moment. She shook her head, clearing them all away. There was business to attend to.
“Sam, I’ve got some questions for you. About R&D.”
He suddenly seemed militant. “Hey, have they got my jet pack finished? I was supposed to fly to Brazil, like, a week ago.”
“Uhh…” Janine responded. Sometimes she forgot that Sam needed a little… handling. “Yah, I think it’s done. Now, as for my question. Are there any top secret R&D projects? I know there must be at least a few that I don’t have access to, but you would.”
“So I need to know if there’s any current projects that might be using up a lot of paper.”
“Hmm… Not that I can remember.” Sam pulled a small book out of his pocket and began flipping through it. He paused at one page and chuckled. “Oh…. That Liz, she’s a wily one.” He continued flipping until he closed the book. “No, I don’t see anything.”
“Are you sure?” asked Janine. “This is important Sam. There aren’t any papier maché monkeys or something?” She prompted.
“Wow! That’s a great idea! Are we making those? That’s awesome!”
“I don’t think so, I’m asking you if –”
“We should make those! Papier maché, why didn’t I think of that?” Sam opened his book again and began to write something in it. “This will work great in Afghanistan.”
“Sam,” Janine interjected. “So you’re telling me that there’s nothing they’re working on currently that should be using up a lot of paper?”
Sam halted his scribbling. “Nope. I’m sure of that. I would have known if they were making papier maché monkeys.”
Janine was regretting saying anything about monkeys. “And besides papier maché?”
“Nope.” Sam repeated. “There definitely aren’t any projects like that.” He pulled out his cell phone and started dialing. “Yet.”
Janine sat in her office, dejected. Her meeting with Sam had been fruitless and she was left without a clear idea of what to do next. She tried taking her mind off things by reviewing the weekly requisitions.
Someone was putting in requests for rocket launchers again. She nixed those in a hurry – the launchers themselves weren’t that bad, but rockets were expensive. And there was no way she could amortize those!
But in the end it was useless; her thoughts kept leading her back to the missing stationary. So what? It’s not even that much paper. But her mind would leave her no peace.
She started reviewing what she had learned so far. She knew that paper consumption was up in R&D. And thanks to the recycling figures she also knew that it wasn’t leaving the R&D division.
Janine turned her chair towards the computer and brought up the budgetary figures for R&D. Hoping for inspiration, she began scrolling through the data.
Sam had confirmed the paper wasn’t targeted toward any official uses. But someone must have created that increase in paper. She stopped scrolling when she reached the expense breakdown by project. Doug had told her it was a computer program that did the ordering. What if someone had modified that program?
She switched programs and began scanning through the list of project timetables – a list that could be broken down to display active members. Thanks to some of Janine’s earlier reforms it had become next to impossible to start any project without complete fiscal accountability. If she was going to be signing people’s paychecks she damn well better know why.
After running across a few promising candidates Janine had come to a conclusion: R&D has a shit-load of projects. She scribbled a note to herself to check into some of them (although she amended “a shit-load of projects” to read “quite a few active endeavors.” Then she wondered if she should perhaps write a bit more at the start, to clarify things. After that it became apparent she needed to back up her statements with a few figures. Half an hour and seven pages later, Janine emailed her completed memo to certain members of Accounting, Ops, Oversight, R&D, and Management). Finally, she came upon project J3725-B, ‘automated supply coordination utility.’ This was it.
Sure enough, maintenance entries were logged for a ‘John Westlock’ up until about two months ago. Janine paused. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. She continued – and discovered another ‘John Westlock’ entry (for 1.5 hours) from five weeks ago. How is that possible?
Then she noticed something: the employee code was different. That was it! Whoever was doing this had been unable to log the hours under the real John Westlock (possibly because his file was deactivated), so they created a second John Westlock. Janine smiled to herself.
Her fingers flew about the keyboard – tracing the false employee code. At first glance, it appeared to be non-existent. But a few minutes later it became apparent that that wasn’t quite the case. The duplicate John Westlock wasn’t an employee, he was a project.
If group members from one project assisted those on another project, it was possible that the project, instead of the employees, would be listed as putting in the time. Janine began to trace down this second project. It was an alias for another project, which seemed to be aliased to still others. The project wouldn’t be left holding those hours; they would be re-distributed to group members – but as a separate transaction!
Janine exhaled as she ran her fingers through her hair. There was no way to easily determine which employees had been loaned out to the secondary projects. Managers were supposed to keep records – but obviously that wouldn’t have been done. Whoever had engineered this knew their stuff; Janine was impressed. Because on top of everything else, at the end of the trail of project aliases, they had linked the program modifications to none other than A1138-R. Project: Lightsaber.
Project: Lightsaber. Janine sighed again.
It was the largest budgetary sinkhole that Janine, in all her accounting endeavors, had ever seen. It was the R&D geeks attempt to build a fully functional lightsaber, alá Star Wars, and involved (at last estimates) over 83% of R&D personnel to varying degrees. It was by no means an official project. Quite the opposite: the powers that be had done all they could to stamp it out. But they had eventually succumbed to the fact that (Janine briefly recalled the memo) “…other than killing every last R&D geek, there is no way to halt Project: Lightsaber. Even then, there is no guarantee that the project wouldn’t be revived by a fresh batch of recruits.” Management had instead attempted to ensure that Project: Lightsaber did not interfere with higher priority projects and that the geeks worked on it only when they should be eating, sleeping or doing other such recreational activities.
There was only one way Janine could track this down. If she were to tabulate each employee’s hours, as contributed to Project: Lightsaber and other projects, and compared those to the hours they had contributed in total, somewhere she would find an employee with a discrepancy of 1.5 hours. Janine shuddered involuntarily. With over two hundred geeks in R&D this was to be no easy task. She thought about trying to get her software upgraded to do the task – but that could take weeks. And it would be outsourced to R&D, she thought darkly.
There was only one group of people she knew she could trust.
It was time to mobilize the troops.
Janine picked up her broom handle and glanced above her at the caged ones. “Get up!” she shouted as she began banging various cages. “Play time’s over, folks. It’s time for you all to get some real work done!”
Approximately 37 hours, countless false leads, a veritable forest of printouts, a few naps and a near infinite amount of cross-referencing later, Janine had her man. William Arnold, emp#2491.
It had culminated with Janine emailing him a brief note. ‘Re: Failure to recycle. I know about Project J3725-B. Meet me in common area #7 at 13.30, alone, or face consequences worse than mis-filing an expense form during an audit period.’
Janine glanced at her watch. It was 13.38.
The common area, a small outdoor park, was relatively deserted. To the east of her were a couple of midgets having lunch. To the Northwest were a couple of monkeys and one of their trainers, Monique, on maneuvers. After Sam had overheard one of the soldiers use the phrase, he had insisted that they call all such monkey activities “being on maneuvers.” As near as Janine could tell, the monkeys, each of whom were wearing either an orange or green electro-shock harness, would climb up one of the trees and throw leaves at some of the other monkeys. Monique, meanwhile, cheered them on with cries of “excellent,” and “good form!”
It was 13.42 and Janine was starting to wonder if meeting Mr. Arnold had been the best of ideas. At the time she hadn’t given it a second thought. After such a long and difficult hunt, she had wanted to be the one to face him with the facts. What if he’s dangerous? She thought. Maybe she should turn her findings over to someone else.
That was some reasonably advanced book-work she had run across; what if there was more to it than she had discovered? She glanced around her. At least she had chosen a public meeting place – there wasn’t much anyone could do here.
Janine’s anxiety shrank somewhat as she thought things over. She squeezed the cell-phone in her pocket; reassuring herself that she could always call in support if she needed it. But she didn’t feel like letting one of the other departments steal the credit for her investigation. Not again. Not just yet, anyway.
Janine’s anxiety faded again as she saw Mr. Arnold enter the courtyard. Sweating, wheezing and making a desperate attempt to run, William Arnold burst into common area #7. Both the monkeys and midgets stared at him as he briefly stopped to catch his breath.
Embarrassed to do so, Janine waved him over.
William waved back, then pulled out an asthma inhaler from his pocket and took a few quick medicated puffs. He re-started his run.
Janine glanced at her watch again.
As he arrived, he burst out “I’m.. I’m.. sorry I..” Janine waved him to sit down on the bench. His thin frame collapsed on the seat as he took another desperate breath from the inhaler. “I.. I.. got here.. as.. as.. as..”
“Fast as you could?” Janine prompted. He nodded as he momentarily breathed through the inhaler. “That’s okay, take your time.” After a while his breathing seemed to return to a more even pace.
“Thanks. I just got your.. your message.” His expression was worried.
She took a moment’s pause to collect her thoughts. And let his worry grow. “It seems, Mr. Arnold, that you have been responsible for a few missing office supplies.” William’s complexion paled noticeably. “It seems you went to quite an effort to keep it unnoticed as well.”
“I can explain everything.” Janine leveled her gaze at him. He continued: “You see, a while back they came out with a.. with a new Player’s Handbook and De-Emgy - but they were so expensive! So Ted and I were thinking –”
William’s eyes widened.
“You know,” mused Janine. “One person is a rouge element. Two people is a conspiracy. Much more serious.”
“Oh please, we can pay it all back. We haven’t even spent any of the.. of the money. We –”
“Mr. Wimples! No!” Both Janine and William looked toward the shouts. Monique was chasing after one of the monkeys, who himself was running quick circles around one of the trees. A second glance revealed the monkey to be excitingly mashing his fist against a metal box he was holding in the other hand. Monkeys in the green harnesses, meanwhile, were dropping to the ground as their muscles convulsed and lost their grip on the branches above.
Janine and William turned their gazes back toward one another. “Money?” Janine asked; her interrogation somewhat derailed. “You were charging people?”
“Well, yah. The stores wanted forty dollars a book! So Ted and I thought that if we could hack into Tee Ess Are –”
“Wait. I thought you said it was a De-Emgy? What’s a Tee-Eser? Is this about that card game you all play?”
William stared at her for a moment. “Um... not quite. The card game is Magic. This is –”
Janine waived her hand to silence him. “Whatever. But there’s a market for all this stuff?” Her hostilities forgotten, Janine’s thoughts were running faster than she could keep up. “What were you charging?”
William was caught off-guard; unprepared for this line of questioning. “Well, we charged fifteen dollars for the Pee Haych and twenty for a De-Emgy. And there’s lots of gamers, if that’s what you mean.” As if sensing there might be a way out of his dilemma, he added: “There’s a bunch of supplement books, too.”
“And what about the Tee-Eser that you mentioned, how much for one of those?”
He started at her a moment. “Uhh... about the same.”
Portions of a business plan were dancing inside Janine’s head, slowly falling into place. After some consideration, she spoke. “Right. This is how it’s going down. No more free paper, that’s coming off the gross. Your prices are going up, too.”
William nodded vigorously. “Absolutely.”
“You can also consider yourself as working for free in the near future. Ted too. And part of your net is coming to me, in exchange for my leaving your name off the investigation.” He nodded again.
Janine took a moment to size him up; he seemed easy enough to intimidate. “Those were some decent book-keeping skills you showed. Not accountant-quality, mind you, but still pretty good. Where’d you pick those up?”
“Well, my brother’s an accountant. I guess some of it rubbed off.” He smiled. “It just seemed natural, you know?”
Janine suppressed a smile of her own. “Well, you’re not bad. For a novice. You could get better – providing you stayed on the correct side of the balance sheet, if you get my drift.” He nodded again. “We’ll give you a chance; see if you can keep up with a real crew.” Janine fold her arms across her chest.
“Does that mean I have to live in one of those cages?” He seemed concerned.
Janine laughed. “Oh, I doubt that you’re that good. But don’t worry, one day you might get your own cage. If you work out,” she added ominously.
And as Janine ran over the details of her newest revenue stream, a feeling of relief crept over her. She had tracked down her mysterious credits, and turned the situation into a debit. Everything was working itself out.
There was only one thing left to do; one person left to talk to. The feeling of relief tightened itself back up into a ball of stress and Janine felt the vein in her forehead begin to twitch, ever so slightly.
Janine rapped her knuckles lightly against James’ office door.
“Janine! Come on in.” He motioned toward one of the chairs in front of his desk. Janine smiled as she sat down. “So what can I do for The Janine today?”
She shifted in her chair. “Well, it’s like this. I’ve been conducting a bit of an audit.” Janine noticed James’ eyes roll slightly as she said this. His face quickly returned to normal; the sort of gesture that would be unnoticeable had she not seen it so many times before.
“Audits! That’s great,” he cried with faux enthusiasm. “Glad to hear you’re keeping on top of things.” He took a sip from his coffee. “I’m just a little busy at the moment, though. If you leave a copy at the front desk, they’ll see I get to it.” He began shuffling a few papers about on his desk.
“Well, normally I would but there are a few irregularities I’d like to discuss with you.”
His voice strangely monotone: “Really.” It was almost like he was bracing himself for something.
“I discovered a bit of theft, actually.”
“Really?” His voice seemed to have regained some of its normal timbre.
“Yes.” Janine decided to have a bit of fun: “R&D stationary expenses were up by 18%, but that’s 67% more than normal deviation – well, 68% actually – for the month. They were quite devious really. Now R&D uses approximately 58% of our stationary. Per annum, that’s –”
“Janine.” James leaned forward. His forehead vein seemed to be developing a twitch of its own. “So what does that actually mean. How much was actually stolen?”
“Well, I can’t be sure, exactly. But I’d say... about sixty dollars worth.”
James leaned back in his chair. “Of stationary? Sixty dollars?”
“About that,” she replied confidently. Thinking further, she added “Although I understand the toner costs were hidden in a different way, so that figure might be a little low.”
“Oh, I’m sure. But really: sixty dollars? It’s just... I probably go though more than that in coffee for a month.” As if suddenly reminded, James glanced down at his mug, then refilled it from the automatic coffee brewer he had had installed on his desk. “But you’re right, we shouldn’t have people stealing from us.” James stood up, then sat on the corner of his desk; coffee mug still in hand. “Tell you what; how ’bout I send someone over to have a chat with this guy. Just let him know that we frown on this sort of thing. Who was it, anyways?”
Janine was briefly reminded of John Westlock. “Uh... I think I’ve dealt with the matter. But what I wanted to bring to your attention was what they were doing with the office supplies.” James raised his eyebrows questioningly.
“With nothing more than a dot matrix and a photocopier, they were running their own private printing press down there in R&D. Printing up all sorts of weird D&D books about Tee-Esers and such. Then they were selling them; undercutting the book stores.”
“Really?” James sounded positively interested. “Say... that’s actually not bad. Sort of a whole Tennasse Ford, company store kinda thing. I like it. So you’re thinking we make the whole thing official.”
“Exactly. And what I need from you will be a few laborers, while we prep to ramp up production. We’ll also be requiring an increased paper supply and possibly some better printers.”
“So what are we charging for these books?”
Janine briefly calculated what it would be after William’s regular, and generous, donations to J.M. Inc. “Oh... around thirty, thirty five..”
“Well let’s make it forty five, then,” he nodded.
“But that’s more than they sell it for at the stores!”
“Janine, Janine. You’re not thinking revolutionary enough. We’ll just make it mandatory that they buy from us.” As he paused, Janine wondered how he planned to enforce that policy. “Y’know, maybe we should branch off into forgeries. Those funny little trading cards they’re all so fond of. I’d hate to think we were turning this into some merely retail endeavor. You know, ‘revolutionary’ and all that.” James smiled at her.
She felt her pulse rate begin to rise. “Well, if you think so. I just think we’d have better luck if we stay with a proven business model.”
“I know,” James got off the desk corner and sat back down in his chair. “But these are frustrating times. We’ve got to get that cash flow rolling in. Fire engines don’t come cheap you know.” James took a sip of coffee.
“What was that?”
James’ eyes turned to meet Janine’s, then darted to his desk and back again. “What?”
“Did we buy a fire engine?”
James cleared his throat slightly. “Uh... why? Did you hear something?”
That clinched it. “Oh my god, you bought a fire engine, didn’t you. Why on earth did we buy a fire engine!? What possible use could –”
“Hey, Janine,” he said, interrupting her tirade. “It just came to me. Figure of speech, that’s all.” He chuckled slightly. “No one bought a fire engine. No worries. But I was thinking, you guys are a little low on funding, right? Well why don’t you take 10% of that markup we were discussing. You know, as a discretionary fund. For Accounting.” Janine continued to stare at him. “Uh... or maybe 20%?”
Janine decided to drop the topic for now. “Well, I’ll look into your suggestions. In the meantime, I’ll forward you the figures for the labor requirements.”
“Sure.” James nodded. “Sounds great.”
“And I’ll see you at Tuesday’s budgetary review?”
James winced, then smiled. “Of course, wouldn’t miss it!”
“Well, it was good coming by.” She concluded. “I’d best get back to it, though.”
“Absolutely.” James smiled. “Glad to help.” He seemed relieved to see their conversation drawing to a close.
Fire Engines, Janine thought as she got up.
Walking out of James’ office, she started preparing a mental list of things to check into.
Janine had another audit to perform.