Chapter 18 Page 1 of 6


Agnes Brown was agahst. She threw up her hands and leaned back in her chair. It was a high-backed leather chair that creaked loudly when she stood moments later. Jonny stepped out of her way. He glanced in my direction but said nothing.

Jonny had reacted to my news with great excitement and had rushed to Agnes’ office to give her an update. He had expected Agnes to be pleased with the breakthrough in the case. Instead she was distraught over the flaw.

“How,” she asked, “can a security system that has been in use for over a decade be so badly flawed? The NSA helped develop that standard! It has been reviewed by security experts at DEC, IBM, Burroughs, Citibank, Mellon Bank, NCR, AmEx, Honeywell, and countless other high-tech companies.” She flung an arm in my direction. “And he finds a flaw after just a couple of days of study.”

I do not think that the derision in her voice was intentional, nor do I think she meant to insult me personally. Probably what she meant to say was that a single individual managed to find a flaw that a panal of expects had either overlooked or else deemed unimportant.

“When was the last time it was reviewed?” she asked.

“It was reviewed and re-affirmed in 1991,” Jonny answered. “In 1995 there was a revision. The 1995 version is quite different from the 1985 and 1991 versions.”

I was surprised by the swiftness and accuracy of his reply. Apparently Jonny too had been studying the EFT protocols. “Right,” I said, “but the flaw remains in the revised standard as well. I already checked. The 1995 changes do not correct this flaw. Indeed, the protocol itself remains unchanged. The changes made to X9.17 in 1995 are primarily involved with the notation and the drafting of the document… cosmetic stuff.”

Agnes strode from the room, beckoning to Jonny and me to follow. Not sure where we were going, or why, I fell in behind Jonny. Down the hall and to our left. Past the elevators. Through a door at the end of the hall and up a narrow staircase. We went up three flights. That put us on the tenth floor. We entered a wide outer office with a young male receptionist sitting at a long low desk. He looked up critically and raised an eyebrow.

“Do you have an appointment Mrs. Brown?” he asked.

“Is he in?” came the curt reply.

“He’s busy,” the receptionist shot back.

Without another word Agnes headed straight for the inner office door. Whoever “he” was, the fact that he was busy did not slow Agnes in the least. Jonny followed, but two or three paces behind now. The receptionist sighed and punched the key on the intercom with an air of resignation.

The intercom was buzzing on the desk as we walked in. The man sitting behind the desk looked away from the intercom and up at us. Agnes sat down into the chair immediately in front of the desk.

“What is it now Agnes?” the man asked with a deep sigh and a forlorn glance at the papers lying in front of him. He took off his glasses and massaged his temple.

“The First Chicago case has heated up,” said Agnes.

The man behind the desk sat up and let out a mirthless laugh and said, “heated up? That case was red-hot already. What happened now?”