Chapter 5 Page 4 of 6

“If I did corrupt it in any way, then the MAC would not have checked out,” I said. “Bear in mind that the entire purpose of a MAC is to detect tampering by a third party. I would have gotten authentication errors.”

At this point the waitress came to the table to refill our water classes. Neither of us said anything until after she had left again. Then Lisa asked, “what made you decide you could trust me?”

“I had to.”

Puzzled, she asked why.

“It was clear that something had gone dreadfully wrong with the transfers,” I explained. “As soon as I saw that a few EFT replays went through I knew something was amiss. At first I thought that maybe you were tampering with the EFT traffic too and that the your EFT was a forgery of some sort.

“I’ve spent a lot of time studying those EFT’s over the last few days,” I groaned. “Then, after I saw you in the bank I realized that you were probably an innocent victem in all of this.”

“Because I don’t look like a computer scientist?” she asked indignantly.

“Because you don’t look like a hacker.”

“Oh… I’ll take that as a complement!” she smiled sweetly. “Unlike you, I don’t mess around with other people’s livelihood for a cheap thrill.”

It seemed best to let that comment pass. Instead I elaborated on my answer to her earlier question. “Clearly something strange is going on at First Chicago Trust. I can’t approach the bank. Nor can I go to the police. The first thing they would do would be to arrest me. Maybe they would ask questions later… and maybe not.

“Really, when you stop and think about it, I had no choice but to approach you,” I confessed. “My only two options are to run away from the whole thing and pretend I am completely unaware of any irregularities, or to try to figure out for myself exactly what happened. I choose the latter.”

“You took a chance,” she said, “just by showing up in person and identifying yourself to me as the man who has made my life a living hell for the last four days. For that matter, while I’m not going to run to the police immediately, I’m not going to let this drag out forever. If you can’t patch things up quickly I’ll still go to the police.” She looked at me pointedly as she said this. She wasn’t bluffing; she was issuing a warning.

I looked around as I emptied my wine-glass and refilled both of our glasses. Odd, the place was still nearly empty and yet this should be peak hours. The two other parties that were already seated when we came in were still there. Only one additional table had been filled. The woman at the bar had either found somebody to her liking or she had been waiting for a friend who wasn’t particularly punctual. Either way, a man for whom she had been waiting had finally arrived. They were sharing a light dinner now. The remainder of the roughly twenty tables were all empty.

I turned back to my dinner companion. “We really didn’t need that reservation, did we?” I asked. “You probably come here often, is it always this empty?”

She let a short pretty laugh escape her lips and set down her glass. “I’m surprised they even took a reservation for you. Did they give you a funny look when you made it?” She glanced around the room. “This is a typical turn-out. And yes, I do come here often. Not a very original line; you can do better than that, can’t you?” She had a glint in her eye and a slight smirk on her face as she leaned her head into her right hand with her elbow on the table and swirled her glass with her left hand.

I wasn’t sure what to say next, mainly because I wasn’t sure what she meant by that last comment. I hoped she was flirting. Her attitude toward me fluctuated between contempt and acceptance. We had met only hours earlier and already she had yelled at me, made snide remarks, and threatened me with the police. Yet, inbetween these hostile moments we seemed to be getting along quite well… like now for example. To cover my puzzlement I poked at the remains of my fish and tried not to look as awkward as I suddenly felt. Mistake. The moment passed.