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Hidden Notes

Are you compliant?

By Jenell Riesner Published about a year ago 6 min read
Hidden Notes
Photo by İrfan Simsar on Unsplash

It was a simple task - yet Jules felt a rush of endorphins. This chemical-induced bliss was all caused by a sleek Macbook she carried out of the office. With a delicate hold, like a baby bird that had fallen from its nest, she transported her golden ticket back to her car where she tucked it underneath her driver’s seat. It’s own vault, dark and secure.

Jules wasn’t typically this paranoid. It wasn’t like she had butter for fingers, quite the opposite actually. Jules's fingers seem to have a magnetic quality around things she fancied. But this wasn’t just any laptop, it belonged to her new employer. Picking up her computer was just one of many tasks that seemed mindless, but Jules knew their potential. A vision that had become obvious on her first day on the job.

She remembers that day well. It might have been an unremarkable day to the average Washingtonian. The sky was filled with gray clouds as it often was in Seattle. Droplets of mist dampened sidewalks and awoken earthworms from their underground slumber. Jules could smell the rain before she even got out of bed. The perfect occasion for her new cashmere sweater that she had “borrowed” from Bloomingdales. The fabric was so soft it was almost as if she never felt her bed.

The office was located on the 34th floor of a downtown high-rise. She was to report to the front desk promptly at 8:00 AM. Naturally, she arrived at 7:30 AM. The woman at the front desk smiled as Jules waved to her through the locked glass doors. You can never be too careful when it comes to compliance she thought.

The woman’s heels clicked and clacked against the tile floor as she made her way toward Jules. “Hello, you must be Jules! Here for your first day.” She held the door open as Jules slid inside.

“You would be correct. Present and ready to assist Mrs. Lewis with anything she needs.” Jules replied with teeth that showed an investment in dental work.

“Fantastic. Let me show you to your workstation.” The woman said. The pair made their way past the front desk and into a hallway filled with floor-to-ceiling glass on each side. Jules gazed through the glass walls. Most offices were empty but some contained coffee-sipping millennials dressed in their best cotton tees and brightly colored sneakers. Others were perched on yoga balls and most stood at motorized desks. It was like watching animals at the zoo. Their worlds so small they’d become ignorant of the glass cage around them.

“This is Mrs. Lewis’ office. She typically gets in closer to nine. You can set yourself up at that desk in the corner.” She gestured to a small desk with a laptop and keyboard placed on its oak surface. “It will be your workstation so you’re always close by.” she flashed Jules a grin that appeared to be sympathetic, an unspoken good luck. But Jules took no mind, she wasn’t worried about the longevity of her tenure. Her goal was more focused than that.

Mrs. Lewis’s office was one of the few that had privacy. The perks of being the CEO. Its measurements were surely larger than Jules's studio apartment. A large bookshelf full of multi-colored novels was placed dramatically behind a standup desk. A treadmill was placed where you might expect a chair. If you looked closely, like Jules did, you could see the small imprints from the repetitive motion of a heals-smashing rubber on the belt.

Mrs. Lewis’s desk lacked clutter with only a few neon-colored post-it notes, a framed photo of a small dog wearing a sweater, and a wireless keyboard. Static built as Jules shuffled her feet around the space, taking in every detail she could manage. The lack of finger smudges on the glass windows. The empty trash bin, most likely disposed of by the cleaning crew the night before.

There was a tempo to places like that. Jules had learned that from her many years at tech companies. Lucky for her, the tempo was quick. So quick in fact, that people seemed to miss the little details that she obsessed over. The really important things, like a carefully hidden post-it note at the bottom of a wireless keyboard. A move that all the PCI compliance in the world could never fix, forgetfulness.


It was easy enough to write down the series of numbers and letters scribbled on the neon pink square. Even easier to discreetly flip the keyboard back over and pretend like nothing happened. The next step would take a little more patience. She had the weapon and the motivation but now she needed means.

Days turned into weeks as she arrived at the office each morning at 7:30 AM. She witnessed many foosball games in the breakroom, cold brew coffee on tap, and snacks galore, all shiny objects to distract the team from the truth - that they were underpaid and overworked. A team of disposable people, easily taken out with the trash. Jules knew that all too well.

“We appreciate all you’ve done for us but your position is being eliminated due to budget constraints.” her last two employers had said to her. The truth between the lines of bullshit they sputtered was that her role had been relisted as an entry-level position. She had become too expensive to keep. Agism in the tech world was alive and well. There was always another Gen Z ready to step into the shoes of a Millennial for lower pay. Jules supposed that was the circle of life. But a girls still got to eat.

It took ten weeks for Mrs. Lewis's computer to go on the fritz. With a little nudge from Jules, of course. She wasn’t that patient. Besides, she had gleaned this company required their employees to reset their passwords every three months. The current cycle was coming to an end. Jules had received her own email from the Corporate IT Team, pleading, “Reset Your Password in 30 days to stay compliant. We thank you for your support in keeping our information safe.”

“Jules, my computer is acting up. It keeps forcing quitting my Zoom Calls.” Mrs. Lewis called out. “Can you take it down to corporate IT this afternoon? I don’t have time for this right now.” She placed her head in her hands, rubbing her temples.

Jules responded in her sweetest of voices, “Of course. I will take care of that ASAP.” Her opportunity had arrived. A quick pitstop at a public coffee house before making her way over to IT. Public wifi had become a highly underrated tool. Jules sat at a table in the back away from the gaze of security cameras and the over-caffeinated. She flipped open the screen, greeted by a white light as if she had arrived at the gates of heaven. Although, her actions might have qualified her for hell.

Mrs. Lewis’s computer prompted her.


She review the chicken scratch she’d scribbled in her notebook on her first day. The keys tapped a triumphant beat as she typed. Jules doubled checked her work and tapped return with her pinky finger. She grin as the computer granted her access. “Don’t forget to reset your password, Mrs. Lewis.” She whispered to herself. “You never know who might get inside.”


About the Creator

Jenell Riesner

Cheery on the outside, moody on the inside. Jenell Riesner (she/her) is a Writer, Marketer, and seeker of adventures. She is an insatiably curious human who loves podcasting, hunting ghosts, and taking road trips. Instagram: @jenell.riesner

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  • Addi Brightabout a year ago

    PCI compliance is suuuuch a pain but this story is Thrilling! I want to know what happens next.

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