The first part of this story set me on a path. In yet another division of the fictional conglomerate, Kongo.com, something is going awry. this week, after another unfortunate incident, we get a glimpse into what might be behind this.
Right now, those affected are feeling shame, embarrassment and loss of things like jobs and status. I have a feeling this will escalate and become more serious in the coming installments.
I can’t wait to weave the Kongo related stories into a book later this year.
For now, please enjoy Part 2 of the serial, First Impressions
First Impressions – Part 2
Martin Donovan was a widower. It was going on two years since his wife, Denise, succumbed to an cruel and unexpected brain aneurysm. His daughter, Mindy, was in 11th grade at the time and he spent the time following his wife’s death focused on his daughter. He was her support system as she grieved for her mother. She finished high school and even got accepted to the state college with a respectable scholarship. Now she was headed off to college and Martin suddenly found himself alone and more lonely than he had been in quite some time.
It had been quite some time since he had been on a date. He and Denise were married for 25 years when she passed. Now, at 48, he was a bachelor and felt the need for some companionship. He had been set up on some dates, but found that his well-meaning friends had set him up with women that were either too set in their ways, too young, or too bitter from past relationships.
Technology wasn’t foreign to Martin, but it also wasn’t an essential part of his life as it was in the lives of young people like his daughter. It was Mindy, however, that told him about Kongo Match. He was reluctant at first. He didn’t think a computer program with a set of algorithms could find him a suitable companion let alone a soul mate.
He filled out the rather extensive profile and, low and behold, he met Danielle. She was a striking woman of 45 who was also widowed suddenly. After sharing several telephone conversations and, eventually, meals with Danielle, Martin found him self attracted to her on several levels. The physical attraction, after two years without his wife, was a natural biological phenomenon. The mental attraction, however, surprised him.
Although he felt they had a mutual physical attraction, Martin and Danielle hadn’t consummated their relationship yet. There were multiple reasons for this. First, because of the suddenness of the passing of their spouses, there was a feeling that they were somehow cheating. Finally, cautiously, they mutually agreed that the time had come. With both of their kids away at college, Danielle had a son Mindy’s age, they agreed that they would have dinner and then make their way to Danielle’s condo. Martin had lived in his neighborhood through 20 of his 25 years of marriage. He didn’t want the neighbors gossiping about his overnight guest. Danielle had only been in her condo for a month. She and her husband, Charles, had a large house. After her son went to college, she put it up for sale and downsized to a two bedroom condo on the lake. It was secluded and she didn’t know her neighbors well enough for them to gossip about her.
They both picked at their food as they sat at their secluded table in the steak house that was less than a mile from Danielle’s condo.
“You don’t seem hungry tonight,” Danielle said after a prolonged silence. “Is your steak okay?”
“It’s…It’s fine,” Martin answered. “I’m just…”
“Me too,” Danielle said reading Martin’s thoughts. She reached across the table and held his hand. He squeezed it in return.
“I’m not hungry,” he finally said. “I’m ready to leave.”
Danielle looked into his eyes. “I’m ready too. Let’s head back to the condo. I have some new wine I’ve been dying to try.”
“That sounds like a plan”
Martin paid the check and they headed out to his car. They held hands, but were silent for the duration of the short drive to the condo.
Danielle’s new home was a split level unit. It had a kitchen, living room, dining area and half bath downstairs with two bedrooms, a master and a guest upstairs with a full bathroom. Both levels had decks that overlooked the lake. Danielle had set up a desk with her laptop computer in the massive master bedroom so it could double as her office. She kept the other bedroom as a guest room, but it was mostly meant for her son, Jack.
They made their way to the upstairs deck which was accessed through sliding glass doors in the master bedroom. They watched the remnants of the sunset and enjoyed the wine that Danielle had spoke of. Finally, as the last glow of the sun sunk into the lake, they glanced at each other and convened to the bedroom.
The wait was worth it. Martin and Danielle had become acquainted at a deep level before adding the physical aspect to their relationship. Now, as they got to know each other on a different level, it felt natural.
As their bodies intertwined hungrily, the light for the camera on Danielle’s laptop came on. As they fell asleep in each others’ arms, a link with a video was sent to each of their children, Martin’s coworkers and neighbors and Danielle’s late husband’s family. Their first intimate encounter would bring them shame.
Jonathan Keller sat at his desk in the Kongo Match headquarters in St. Louis, Missouri. This highly profitable offshoot of the massive Kongo conglomerate was the brainchild of the company’s cutting edge marketing department. The business model was unique, simple and brilliant. It was the only dating site, Keller hated that term, that did not charge its members. Instead, by making the members fill out a detailed profile and agreeing to allow Kongo to use it for marketing, a gold mine of information was available for Kongo to sell to numerous companies. It was one of the largest marketing databases ever created. The fees being paid by companies to target Kongo Match members were very lucrative.
Keller had been picked as CEO of this new venture based on his marketing background. He had a good feel for data trends and analysis as the former head of one of the largest online marketing companies in the U.S. Kongo Match was a dream job. Kongo had unlimited resources. His division of the company was a funnel for sales into Kongo. He was in a very good situation.
As he reflected on his sunny future, his phone rang.
“Mr. Keller, I have Bob Johnston on the line.”
It was Keller’s executive assistant, Vanessa.
“Thanks Vanessa. Please put him through.”
It was unusual for Bob Johnston to call him. He was the head of operations for Kongo Match. He ran day-to-day functions such as IT and Customer Service. They had a regularly scheduled monthly meeting that usually was just a glowing report of the smooth operations. They had met last week, so this call was a bit unusual.
“Bob, how’s it going? How is Marie?”
Keller and Johnston belonged to the same country clubs and their wives socialized.
“She’s fine, Jon. I’m sorry to bother you. Is this a good time?”
Keller glanced at his calendar.
“You’re in luck. I’ve got 30 minutes until my next meeting. What can I do for you?”
“Well, this could be nothing, but I wanted to give you the heads up.”
Keller was a little bit concerned. Johnston typically was not an alarmist. If he saw fit to call the CEO, there must be something worth reporting.
“Sure, Bob. What is it?”
“My head of customer service had some red flag issues from customers bubble up,”
Keller knew that red flag issues were things reported by customers that immediately moved up to the leadership area of the company. In the two years that Kongo Match had been operating, these would be the first issues of this type.
“You’ve had more than one?” Keller asked.
“Fifty to be exact. All with a common thread. All reported in the past three days.”
Keller started to get a bit more nervous.
“What kind of issues are they? What do they have in common?”
“They’re privacy issues.”
“Did someone hack our database? I was afraid of that.”
“We don’t think so, but someone may be putting our customers in compromising situations.”
“What do you mean?”
“All of the reports involve the unauthorized recording of our customers in various situations. The recorded information is then forwarded to their contacts.”
“That sounds like something a hacker would perpetrate. What makes you think it’s not the case and what kind of recordings are we talking about?”
There was silence on the line for about 10 seconds as Bob Johnston collected his thoughts.
“They are video recordings of our customers having intimate relations. These acts are being recorded and then sent to multiple contacts with the apparent intent of damaging the reputation of the customers and causing embarrassment. Some have lost their jobs or had their relationships with family and friends compromised.”
“But how are these recordings connected to us?”
“I’ve got IT working on that now, but we think someone might be following customer movements through their devices and accessing their cameras to record them without their knowledge.”
“How could that happen? I thought we had firewalls and impeccable security.”
“We do, but only against external threats.”
Keller felt his stomach churning as he asked the next question.
“Does that mean that someone within the company is doing this?”
“So far, that seems to be the most likely scenario. I’ve got IT on it, but whoever is doing it is covering their tracks well. We will find them.”
“You better, Bob. This could cause irreparable damage, not just to Kongo Match, but to Kongo overall.”