The Client That Stole Christmas
Chewing a large bite of turkey sandwich, Kristen Hammersmith pressed her palms together behind her back, relishing the series of cracks and pops between her shoulders. It had been a long year, and she’d spent too much of it hunched over this desk. She believed that Driscoll did important work—building reliable, if expensive, software for businesses whose systems couldn’t afford to fail—but it could be stressful. Sometimes she had nightmares about a bug in the Driscoll system that operated airplane landing gear.
The past few months had seen more turmoil than usual. Kristen’s boss, Alessandra Sandoval, had decamped to set up her own business as a technical consultant. The move had come as a relief, because Alessandra and Tim, the unit head, didn’t exactly mesh. Tim was a classic software geek—methodical, khaki-clad, and, unless you were cracking jokes about binary code, fairly reserved. He had been visibly uncomfortable with Alessandra’s almost hackeresque persona: her sarcastic sense of humor, visible tattoos, and odd hours. Her Vespa was more likely to be in the company lot at 9:00 PM than at 9:00 AM. She could find bugs faster than anyone else in the company, but a reorg had left her reporting to Tim, and six months later she had announced she was leaving.
Tim had responded by promoting his next-best programmer—Kristen—to fill the position. And although Kristen was excited by the opportunity to be a manager, things had not gone as smoothly as she’d hoped. Alessandra’s chartreuse cowboy boots had turned out to be very tough to fill.
Kristen was looking forward to a week off between Christmas and New Year’s—with her mother doing all the cooking—as a much-needed chance to unwind. Most of her team was taking time off, too. So not a creature will be BlackBerrying, she thought with quiet glee. She took another bite of sandwich just as Tim poked his head around her cubicle wall.
“Kristen, I’m sorry to interrupt your...
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