Early the next morning, Kate and Max walked into the shelter. There were a few stares as she walked in with a dog nearly as big as she was. Max was well behaved and his dog tags clinked softly as she headed towards Suzanne’s office.
“Hey boss! I had to bring Max in with me this morning. My sister is due at the house sometime this morning and she and Max don’t get along. So, I figured it would be safer if he was with me.”
Suzanne came around the desk and held her hand out for Max to sniff. Max gave her fingers a doggy kiss. She smiled and then wiped her hand on her jeans. “Thanks Max. I’ve heard a lot about you,” she said as she ruffled his fur between his ears. “You behave and I’ll buy you a hamburger for lunch.”
Max wagged his tail. Kate smiled down at him. “I think he understood you Suzanne. Better hold to your promise.”
“Oh, I will. And if that computer geek gives me any problems, I’ll just let Max eat him.” She went back to her desk.
“When is the guy due?”
“Eleven. Just in time to screw up all the reports and lunch.”
“Oh fun. Holler if you need help.” Kate and Max left the office.
Max laid across the threshold of Kate’s office. He wasn’t in the way of foot traffic, but he could see and smell up the hall and out to the main door. Just before eleven, Max growled a low rumble.
“Is the guy here Max?” Kate asked softly.
Max thumped his tail on the floor. Trying to nod your head as a dog just wasn’t as easy as it sounded. Kate sat quietly at her desk and tried to concentrate on her work. She was working on reports that were kept separate from Suzanne’s computer and under log-in security. Eric had helped set up the computer. It was a Linux box which had taken Kate some time to learn. However, it meant that it was secure in a way the rest of the computers were not. Plus, your average computer geek would sneer at it unless they got a good look at what it could really do. That was the effect Eric had tried for. Today would be the test on just how effective that camouflage worked. Everything of importance was on a disk. Once the disk was out of the machine, all traces of it disappeared.
Max started to thump his tail against the floor again and then got up out of the doorway. Kate looked up to see Suzanne standing in the door.
“Kate, could you come to my office for a few minutes? The tech is here.”
“Sure. Let me just close out this file and I’ll be right there.” Kate pulled the disk out of the drive and stuffed it in a holder. The holder was full of music disks that Zach and Eric had made. The one for her computer was labeled ‘Wake Up Music’. Kate looked at Max and gave him the stay put signal with her hand. Then she walked down to the office. Already seated at the computer was a man with long hair and a beard. He looked to be about mid-thirties.
“Hello, I’m Kate,” she said and held out her hand.
“Hi. I’m Keith Waterman.” He shook her hand. “I hear you’re the one who installed the software.”
“Yeah. Did I do something wrong?”
“No, not really.”
“What do you mean by not really?” Kate sat down next to him and looked over his shoulder at the screen.
Keith minimized what he was working on and turned towards Kate. “Well, from what I can tell, you forgot to tick a few boxes is all.”
“Oh. Okay. So it isn’t a serious mistake?” Kate asked with a slight upset tone to her voice.
“Nah. Not really. It’s just that without those boxes ticked, some of the reports were coming through all jumbled up. You aren’t the only one who forgot. Several offices across the state have had issues just like this.”
“Oh. I didn’t realize I had missed any. Some of the stuff gave you choices and I just tried to choose the best ones for our office.” Kate continued with that same tone in her voice. It was the same tone her boys had used for years on her. That ‘but I really was trying to be good’ tone. One that parents of children recognize but not other adults. Kate had sized Keith up rather quickly and figured he’d never had children. His responses to her confirmed her guess.
“Oh no. You did just fine, considering the complexity of this new software. It’s something you really should have had installed by one of us.” His tone was rather smug and condescending.
“You’re probably right. I don’t use Windows very much.” Kate dropped the next bit of bait.
“What do you use?” He sat up in his chair a bit. His body tensed.
“My oldest is a computer geek and he uses Linux. So, when I got my own computer, he set it up with Linux Red Hat. And as we didn’t have a whole lot of money, I brought my computer from home down here to use at the office.”
“Oh. Would you mind if I looked at it when I’m through adjusting this machine?”
“No. But would you show me what I did wrong? That way if there are any adjustments to make, maybe I can do them myself?” She asked with a sweet tone to her voice.
Keith smiled. “Of course. Now here is where the problems started,” he said as he brought up the screen and pointed out the boxes they had left unchecked.
Thirty-five minutes later, they stood up from Suzanne’s machine. All the problems had been fixed, and the software was now in properly. Kate hoped that she could remember everything to tell Eric later. Keith had done a few slight of hand bits that she had caught. Now for the hard part of the day. “Do you still want to see my computer?” she asked sweetly.
“Oh yes. The Linux box.”
“My office is down this way.” Kate hoped that Max heard them coming and would behave. She went first just in case he had fallen asleep. He hadn’t. He was laying there quietly when she came round the corner. “Hello Max!” She reached down to scratch him between the ears.
Max thumped his tail on the floor, sending reverberations across the carpeted surface.
“Oh!” Keith said in a startled voice as he came round the corner and faced Max. “I… didn’t know dogs were allowed in here. It is a dog isn’t it?” He looking Max up and down.
“Well, normally I don’t bring Max to the office. However, my sister is due in today, and he doesn’t like her. So, rather than having him growling at her till I get home, I have him here. As for his parentage. We know mom was an Irish wolfhound. That accounts for his size. Daddy on the other hand was a traveling man if you know what I mean.” She smiled and patted Max’s head. Max bumped her hand and made to chew on her fingers.
“Ah. So, I guess the big question is whether he will let me in the office.” Keith held his hand out for Max to sniff. Max tested his fingers and sneezed a rather wet doggy sneeze.
“Oh! I’m so sorry. Here, let me get you a tissue.”
Keith took the tissue. “Thanks. I guess since he just sneezed rather than took my arm off at the wrist that I dare move?”
“Yes.” Kate walked farther into the room and pointed to her computer. “This is it. No great beauty, but it works for me.”
Keith walked over to the desk. “Mind if I sit in your chair?”
“Be my guest.”
Keith sat down at the computer and surveyed the ergonomic keyboard and monitor. The tower itself was on the floor. Both monitor and keyboard had seen better days. Keith bent over to look at the tower and when he brought his head up, he was face to face with Max. His eyes showed just how startled he was, but to his credit, he held still. “Kate,” he said quietly.
“Oh! Max, get back.” She made to move Max away. Max ignored her and just sat next to Keith as if he was going to help him out. “Max, come on. Move over.” Kate said again, trying to move the dog.
Keith looked down, realized that the dog was not going to eat him and relaxed. “It’s okay, Kate. He just startled me. Now, lets see what you have.” He started moving his finger across the touch pad mouse. “Gads, haven’t seen one of these keyboards in ages.”
“My boys keep wanting to get me a new one, but I like my keyboard. It has it’s finicky moments, but otherwise it is fine.”
“I understand.” He began to flip through icons, opening up one here and there.
Kate watched him as he moved through various places on her computer. There didn’t seem to be an order to what he was doing, but at the same time, she didn’t take her eyes off of him. Neither did Max.
“You don’t seem to do a lot of client work on this machine. What do you use it for?”
“Well, no. Suzanne and I decided a long time ago that we’d just use her machine for shelter business. At least we try to. That way I don’t have any files that might get messed up between Linux and Windows. I write all the letters of recommendation, grants, and that type of thing here.” Kate then reached over Keith’s shoulder, tapped a file and brought up a directory of letters and other correspondence. She then clicked on and opened it up.
Keith watched, read some of the letter and then turned back to Kate. “I see. So, do you even connect to the Internet?”
“Oh yeah, on occasion. I search for grants, information and play the occasional mindless game.” She blushed a bit at this admission.
“We all do that Kate. Would you want me to install the software on your computer? We do have a Linux edition.” His tone was helpful.
“Oh. No. That isn’t necessary. I’d never use it.”
“Alright. If you change your mind, call me and I’ll come put it in for you.” He closed down various files he had opened. The last one open was her control panel, where he’d been looking at her software. He turned suddenly and knocked down her tower of disks. They cascaded to the floor, over Max and across the room in some places.
“Oh! Kate, I am so sorry!” He started to move when he realized if he did, that he would break some of them.
Kate had already started to pick them up. “Don’t worry. I’ve done that before. They’re just music.” She moved the ones from behind the chair so that he could move and then concentrated on the rest of them. She was bent over, and had just picked up the Wake Up Disk when she thought that she heard keys being tapped. She ignored it and just kept picking up, wondering if Max was catching what Keith was up to.
“Ah, got them at last,.” She set the disc tower back on her desk.
“I am so sorry Kate.” Keith moved from behind her computer. He handed her a few disks that had fallen to his side in the chair. He had closed out her computer and it was back to the locked screen.
“No problem. Everything is here and no damage.” She counted the disks. Nothing missing. What had he been up to? She smiled as she put the disks back in the rack.
“That’s a nice selection of music.”
“Thanks. The boys helped me make up a few disks to augment the store bought disks. I have a rather eclectic taste in music. Everything from Celtic to rock and roll.”
Keith smiled at this and took another look. “Yes, I see. Well, I’d best get going. Thank you for showing me your computer. It’s a nice one in spite of being so old. You might want your son to update your version of Linux. This is a really old one, and there is a much nicer version out there.”
“I’ll let them know. Granted, last time they updated my machine, I didn’t get it back for a week,” she said with a bit of exasperation in her voice.
“Oh? Why’s that?”
“Because they kept getting sidetracked. It was in pieces across my dining room table. Boys.” She rolled her eyes.
“I understand. I hope dog hair wasn’t a problem.” He patted Max on the head as he came round the desk. Max just looked up at him with a tolerant expression on his face.
“No. Not dog hair, just a lot of dust. Let me walk you to the door.” She led the way. “Max, stay.” She gestured to the dog. Max of course didn’t listen, and followed them down the hall. When they got to the door, he bolted out in front of them and ran into the parking lot. Running around and sniffing various bumpers and cars, he then lifted his leg and peed all over one tire.
“Max!” Kate said with some exasperation. “Get back here right now! Heel!”
“Well, at least he has good taste in cars.” Keith stood behind her as she tried to get Max’s attention.
“What do you mean?”
“That was my car he peed on.” He began to walk to his car.
“Oh! I am so sorry. Oh…” Kate said, following him in hope of catching Max.
“Don’t worry. I’ll run it through the car wash later this week.”
“Are you sure? I mean,”
“Really. Dogs will be dogs.” He got to his car.
“Thank you for being understanding. Max can be such a good dog at times and such a handful at others.” She finally got her hand on Max’s collar. Max looked up at her and she could swear he was grinning.
“Well, it has been nice chatting with you Kate. If you have more problems, please let me know.”
“I will. Thank you.” She backed away from the car, and waved as Keith left the parking lot. Her banishing gesture went unnoticed. “Now Max, let’s go home.”
Max wagged his tail and headed towards the Subaru.