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A week later, Hart still could not let go of the look between his mother and the chief. He saw them, googly-eyed, again and again, like in some movie reel. He had difficulty focusing on his plan to peek through Harding’s office now he and Bryce had flown to St. Louis. He had to shake off his mother’s business. He would deal with that little pickle when he got home. Maybe his brother Jim would like to know what was going on. Didn’t he care Mom drove so much, so far?
Back to the job at hand. Because of his widow’s lawsuit, Harding’s office was kept locked. It was on the other side of Crawford’s and shared an executive bathroom. Hart happened to know a spare key to Harding’s side was taped on top of the bathroom door frame, having seen Harding’s secretary use it one day when he was visiting his boss.
Bryce set up a golden opportunity for Hart to attempt access to Harding’s office when he offered to take Crawford and the others out for lunch. Hart made up the excuse of a phone call to stay back at the office, even though the celebratory lunch was for the reinstatement of his and Bryce’s project. Crawford’s long look did not deter Hart. Once Crawford’s assistant went to lunch herself, the coast was clear.
In Harding’s office, Hart booted up his colleague’s laptop while sneaking a glance at a stack of mail on the desk. He wondered about fingerprints, but decided to ask God to forgive him instead. Was there ever a good enough reason to break the law? Jesus went against the law of the Pharisees and Sadducees. Could he take a peek, if it would help figure out why Harding died? He did not, to his shame, know the state of Harding’s soul, but Hart was sorry he died in the manner he did. If anyone ever needed to look through his own personal or company papers to help Judy, he would be thankful.
Harding’s screen came to life and at the same time Hart noticed a bank statement poking out of the pile of mail. The envelope bore yellow tape marked “special attention.” Even with God’s forgiveness Hart would not have opened the envelope. He had seen that notation on notices that came to him he received before his former fiancé left him. It meant “overdraft.”
Harding’s file folders were arrayed on the desktop of his computer screen. Folder IA97762-F was right up front, along with a number of other projects in the 977 line, which stood for InventivAg’s power supply initiatives. Hart clicked the icon and saw that the information was stored in the “briefcase,” which meant it came and went with Harding, ready to be moved at a second’s notice into a portable flash drive; one of which was still inserted in a port. Three minutes later, the sweat of fear along his back chilled at the ominous sign of tampering in the design of his invention.
Hart had spent months with the tool people working out the type of steel to use. But Harding listed a different steel in the materials list for the key component. No wonder Jacobs from the production team had problems, as he stated in his fax to Bryce at the office before the fire. Was this the design that went out to assembly? He needed to check right away; hopefully he could prevent the bad steel from doing any lasting damage or hurting anyone if it crumpled under stress. Thank heavens the plant was right here, and not overseas.
Hart quickly shut down Harding’s system and rushed to the plant. Even if Harding was trying to take revenge on him or InventivAg for some unknown reason, Harding would not be so stupid as to try to pass on this mistake to Hugo.