All posts by D C Russell

Stealing data from the HHS Actuary…

Chapter 53


Office of HHS Actuary Mike Nichols

Rockville, Maryland

Monday 9:15 am, November 9


“Maybe I’m still a little drunk from last night, but that lawyer lady from Baker and Jensen looked pretty good this morning,” said HB as he finished removing the tap to HHS Actuary Mike Nichols’ desk phone where the phone wire ran to a wall port.

Erwin shook his head at his colleague’s observation and put a nickel-sized harmonica bug from the other phone in his breast pocket. “You didn’t even look at her face. All you saw was her short skirt and high heels. Hurry and get the PC handled. His secretary said his Monday staff meetings are short, and he’s only two offices away.

“Won’t take a sec. Watch this.” HB plugged a FireWire into Nichols’ Sony laptop and thumbed a command into his handheld device. Twenty seconds later he unplugged. “Let’s go. I have his latest data and removed the beacon.”

“Hmph,” grunted Erwin. “So much for him thinking he could backtrack on us.”

As they left the building they pulled their GSA hats down to cover their faces.

“How did the lawyer lady know he wouldn’t be in his office at 9 am and that his laptop would be there?” asked HB.

Erwin responded, “Lawyer snoops are at a different level. Anyway, she gave us another 500 bucks each so I’m not asking questions. When you work with lawyers, you can’t get in too much trouble.”

“Can I keep the hat and jacket?” asked HB.

“Yeah, but not for wearing in public.”

“Maybe she can get me a smaller jacket. This one’s too big. What’s GSA anyway?”

“General Services Administration,” said Erwin. “They handle space, maintenance, phones, that kind of thing, for government.”

“Sounds boring.”

Erwin looked at HB and grinned, “Not the way we do it.”

They chuckled as they walked to the back of the parking lot.   After sending a short encrypted email to Jackie Best at Baker and Jensen, they drove off in their gray van. The email said simply: “Clear. Awaiting next instruction.”


The Chairman’s Policy…


“This is Al Thompson. May I help you?” Thompson had just finished briefing his sales associates and completed the Walmart store-opening checklist.

“Good morning, Al. We spoke earlier in the week. This is Tracy Madson with Delaware General. Just wondered if you had a chance to talk with Cathy about the policy we discussed Monday.”

“Hang on a minute,” Thompson said before he lowered the phone. “Larry, get those lawn tractors moved inside this morning… Yeah I know, but I want to put the winter inventory there… Okay, yeah, fine.” Thompson brought the phone back up to his ear. “Uh, sorry, it’s busy here. We just opened up and we’ve got a big sale this weekend. Want to buy a riding mower?”

That made Tracy laugh. “I live in a small condo, Al. No lawn. Maybe someday, though. Tell you what, the day I need one, I’ll come and buy it from you. So, you had some questions when we talked. Maybe we could take just a few minutes and you can tell me what Cathy thinks.” Tracy wanted Thompson to buy a policy for both himself and his wife. She knew cost might be an issue, but Thompson had said he would talk to Cathy about the policy. Tracy had the Thompson’s other policies and family health history on her screens.

“Yeah, I have questions. I wrote them down so I would remember the ones Cathy wanted answers for, too. Uh, hold on a minute while I switch phones.” Thompson put Tracy on hold and moved to a phone away from the front of the store. “You still there?”

“Yes, Al, go ahead.”

“I’m not sure where to start. This insurance policy. It’s… it’s obviously illegal, isn’t it? I mean you’re putting people down like what’s done with an old dog.”

Tracy closed her eyes, inhaled deeply through her nose and sighed as she looked out the window toward the surf. “I had to put my old German Shepard, Princess, to sleep because she was in bad pain with cancer, Al. That was the hardest thing I ever had to do. I grew up with that dog. She was my constant companion; she protected me, slept with me, walked me to school; she ate the food I didn’t want. She was my best friend. I loved her to death. I went with my dad to the vet’s that day, the day I found out why she cried at night, why she couldn’t eat, why she peed on the floor. She had cancer. The vet said the cancer had spread and there was nothing he could do. My dad said we had to put her to sleep, that she had the best life a dog could have because I loved her so much. He told me if I really loved her, I wouldn’t let her suffer any more. So, I kissed Princess goodbye and she licked the tears on my face.” Tracy paused to compose herself.

“Sorry, Al, I get pretty emotional when I talk about her.” Tracy breathed deeply again and continued, “When we said goodbye, I cried for a week. I was 15. Someday maybe someone will love me as much as I loved Princess. If I’m lucky enough to find someone like that, I hope in the end he lets me die in peace without suffering.”

Al took a few seconds to respond. “I understand. Cathy and I agree with the idea. It’s just that, well we don’t understand how it works.”

TSC excerpt… betrayal


The glass chard of betrayal ripped through Merrit’s core, piercing her heart, knifing her tenuous hold on love, tearing at all she knew. She tried to steady herself against the rack, her knees rocking from under her. No, no. My God, how could he?

Brett stomped over to Grant. “What did you just do? That was Jackie at the firm? Dude, what are you doing? This thing you have with Merritt is so good, and you’re going to fuck it up? For what? Shit, Grant, you did this to make partner? I can’t fuckin’ believe what you’re doin’. Man, you are some certified piece of suck.”

Grant grabbed Brett’s arm and tried to quiet the big lineman before they made more of a scene.

Merritt quickly exited during their elevated argument, her face drained, her life in hell’s basket of quandary.

The lump in her throat shortened her steps to the gate area. She sat holding her carry on bag in her lap pining for the comfort of home, of Meatballs’s purr, of solitude away from hurt…

From the Epilogue


Jensen began, “I spoke with your father last week. He said your studies to become a physician’s assistant are going well.”

“You know my father? I thought my advisor from school…”

“No, I don’t know your father other than the time we have shared on the phone. But I knew your mother. She was one of my favorite people. I visited your home with others from the firm the day she died. You were such a serious little girl. And so very pretty, as you are now as a young lady.”

She bowed her head. “My Mom loved her job here. I didn’t know that’s why you asked me to come today.”

“I have followed your progress in life because I believe your Mom would have wanted me to keep an eye on you.” Jensen’s eyes twinkled. “Your Mom left work unfinished.”

“Mr. Jensen, you know I’m not studying to be a lawyer.”

“Other work. You know how sick your Mom was. Yet she passed peacefully, before she was no longer herself. Before she could no longer kiss you goodnight. Before anyone could say, ‘It was a blessing.’”

“Yes, Dad talked about that, a lot. That’s one of the reasons I’m interested in healthcare.”

“So you are familiar with the Hippocratic Oath?”

“Yes, well, generally,” she said.

Jensen leaned over to pick up a frayed leather bound volume from the small marble topped table to his left. He grimaced slightly as sat back in the chair. “Let me read just a little from the Greek translation.”

In the Roosevelt Room

The next few minutes of Vickers’ talk telling the officials of his decision to leave the Department of Health and Human Services and his ‘supreme’ confidence in the team of Secretary Houghton and Deputy Secretary Royce seemed surreal to Merritt. His airy words, heavily doped with the finest of Washington pharmaceutical grade horseshit, wafted through the erudite set of cynical onlookers.socratic3Dpromo

Novel Excerpts


… After Senator Tidwell retired, the two old friends sat staring at the flickering  fire pit on the expansive veranda.

Jensen took a last sip of the XO cognac, “I’ll work the issue, Delbert. We’ll fix this and then you can get back to enjoying life to the fullest.”

Holding the stem of the snifter, Burroughs deliberately swirled the remaining cognac. Then, he snapped the glass toward the flame, the brandy flashing in the fire.

“Nathan, I feel the stank breath of Government wet on my neck.”