Picture Perfect

“What do you do in your private life when we’re not together?” Cody asked.

“What kind of a question is that?” Don replied, glancing away.

“I want to understand who you are in your private life, Don. Not the you I already know. The you in your secret alone-time. What do you think? What do you do?”

Don’s eyes darted from his dinner plate to the server. He motioned for another martini, then said, “That’s a strange question. Isn’t that the part of us that should stay hidden?”

“I suppose so. It’s none of my business, I guess,” she responded. “Never mind.”

Later that night, Cody could tell Don was just going through the motions although he was pretending otherwise. She just stared at the ceiling and watched another one drift away. She’d seen this in every one of her relationships, and there had been many. What was she doing wrong? No matter how kind, successful, and forgiving she was, the men she gravitated toward would eventually tire of her. They were never openly mean, just increasingly detached as time passed. Now in her early thirties, she was finally growing more angry than afraid. How could she be lonely lying with a man who had promised her his heart?

The next day, Cody hired a private investigator. Within a week, he reported to her that Don was having an affair with, of all people, Cindy Jensen, their boss and the owner of Picture Perfect Advertising. Cody was floored. Cindy was ten years older than Cody and had hired both Don and Cody at around the same time. She treated nearly all her employees like adopted children, which made the investigator’s revelation all the more troubling.

Ruining Picture Perfect’s computer network seemed like the best way to get even. Cody worked in Human Resources and had only a rudimentary understanding of the company’s intranet, but this didn’t stop her. Over the next few months, she spent endless hours learning code online in order to hack into the system and paralyze the business. The company only kept certain physical files for a few years. Everything else, the majority of information, was kept online, so she knew she could destroy most of the information the business needed to survive.

Once she understood the mechanics of her task, Cody logged into the company network with a stolen IT administrator account and built a backdoor into the system that allowed her access from a remote location. She collected everyone’s usernames and passwords with a key code capture. The IT staff had three backups, one of which was in a locked room and not connected to the company’s intranet. She implanted malware and planted electromagnetic pulse pens in strategic places.

On a quiet Saturday morning, she stopped into a Starbucks, ordered a Caffè Americano, and logged into her laptop. As she routed her connection through thirteen different anonymous servers, she thought about her break-up with Don shortly after her discovery, claiming that she was afraid of getting too deeply involved with anyone at that point in her life.

Then, she took down Picture Perfect’s intranet mainframe and backups by uploading a data-destroying virus that had been incubating in the system for a full week before the attack. The virus infected all company computers, even the ones with remote logins. All company information was destroyed—anything hosted on the intranet and connected to the Internet, all accounting, payroll, banking, and tax record files, every SOP, administrative policy, and social media site relating to Picture Perfect—all erased forever, never to be recovered.

Cody logged off, packed up her computer, and strolled outside. She was disappointed that her mission was over. She had never been so spectacularly successful in anything else. She wasn’t even angry with Cindy and Don anymore. The scales were balanced. She would take a long walk, enjoy the weather, and think about the inevitable chaos of Monday morning.