Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: GREED (avarice, particularly for wealth and things) (01/22/15)
- TITLE: Responsible
By Trace Pezzali
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She waited until Max was out of his own car. He strode towards Violet, and pulled her into him with a growl. With a light laugh, Violet playfully pushed against him to end the embrace.
Coquettish, she requested: “Help me with my bags, tiger!”
Violet noticed his frown at the number of purchases. Her striking blue eyes narrowed.
“Beauty costs money, Max.”
Once inside, Max dumped the bags onto the mahogany dining table. “I’ll be in the study. Call me once lunch is made.”
Violet’s jaw dropped. Her cheeks flushed with instant colour.
“You’re not just a pretty face,” he answered her furious look. “You’re also a housewife.”
Before they could get into an argument, Max went down the marbled hall into his sanctuary, immediately booting up the computer. Straight into business, he put on a headset and dialed the number next on a list of names.
“Good morning. Is this Mrs Rose Humphries?” A wavering thin voice confirmed this was she. A twinge of conscience suspended his next move, but he knew the guilt would pass. Obsequiously charming, Max launched into his well-rehearsed script. “I’m completing a service on behalf of the Australian Banker’s Association. We regulate the banking industry and ensure best practices are in place to promote growth in the wider community. We also co-operate with the Government to ensure changes to law do not disadvantage bank customers. Do you mind if I ask you some questions?”
Max grinned when the lady assented. He ascertained who she banked with, for how long, and the token question: whether she was satisfied with the bank’s service. While they talked, his fingers tap-danced over the keyboard as he hacked into programs and through firewalls. By the time she was airing a grievance over customer service, Max was viewing her numerous bank accounts. He paused before skimming the bulk of her savings into his own offshore account. Again, that twinge… Again, ignored.
Phone call over, Max took the necessary time to cover his tracks. Once completed, buzzing with adrenaline, he leaned back in his chair, stretching his arms overhead. Pridefully, he considered his success to date.
Whilst Max earned a fair income as a Software Engineer, it was not enough for the lifestyle he craved. It was an overheard conversation at the Perth Business Club a few months ago that put the idea in his head. It was a quick transition from considering fraud, to hypothetical methods, to the initial phone call. Admittedly, his first success had left him with mixed feelings, but rationalising came surprisingly easy. Since then he’d scammed nearly a million dollars in easy cash, and his dreams were becoming a reality.
Breaking his sweet reverie, a still-seething Violet appeared at the door. Euphoric, Max was keen to make amends. He crossed the room, taking both her hands in his own.
“Sorry for before. You know I stress,” he whispered in her ear.
“Don’t you treat me like that again!” Violet scolded. “Lunch is ready.”
In the dining room, crunching into a chicken Caesar salad, Max perused the newspaper. Violet flicked through a magazine, taking small forkfuls of her own meal.
Suddenly, Max choked on a mouthful. Page 3 screamed:
“PENSIONER COMMITTS SUICIDE; VICTIM OF TELEPHONE SURVEY SCAM”
Feeling dizzy as he read the article, Max braced his hands against the table to prevent falling. Alfonso Gianni. Aged 75. Saving for return to homeland. Overdose.
He remembered the man’s voice. A lonely old man, Alfonso had rambled aimlessly in conversation; dialogue Max cut short once he’d completed the transaction that would shatter this sad man’s hopes.
Violet noticed Max’s reaction. She leaned in to read. Silence, until her opinion erupted: “Disgusting. Whoever did this; that man’s blood is on his hands.”
Panicked, Max excused himself from the table. As surely as handcuffs, he was bound fast to a man’s death by his reprehensible avarice. He could repair damage to other victims, perhaps, but not for Mr Gianni, nor that family. Foolish, he had not foreseen this tragic end.
Max wondered if he’d ever get the man’s voice out of his head.
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