Half an hour later, I walked into my office, feeling like I’d been hit by a bus. The conversation with Symonds had gone exactly as I’d feared. There was little chance I would get any work done, but the evidence to clear my name was here.
Or so I hoped. Either way, I had little choice but to try to find what Elliot Walthers had uncovered and why it had cost him his life. Samuel Olsen must have wanted to protect that secret very badly indeed.
There was a knock on the door to my office as I sat down. Pete Larson, my boss, stood in the doorway, his face full of concern.
“Hey, Nat. How are you holding up? You sure you should be here?”
“I’m sure, Pete. Thank you,” I smiled crookedly at him. I had considered telling Pete about Detective Symond’s belief I was involved, but on the drive from the police station, I felt that the fewer people who knew of that, the better. If I needed his help with my search, I would talk to him about it then.
In the meantime, he had enough on his plate with the delay this whole thing was causing. Pete had also been my manager and friend for years. I knew he would no doubt give Symonds a piece of his mind, which, while satisfying, wouldn’t help anyone.
“All right,” he answered gently. “I will admit that I’m glad to have you back at work. Old Man Olsen is crawling all over me to get things moving again.”
“I bet he is,” I said simply. Inside, I raged at the arrogance of the man. To dismiss the death of a man, and one who he had quite probably killed himself or had killed, it showed just how cold and single-minded he was.
“Well, let me know if you need anything from me,” Pete replied. He turned and walked back to his office.
After he had left, I stared blankly at my computer screen, deep in thought. How could I find the evidence I needed to exonerate myself and to unmask the real killer?
It had to be related to the note left in my purse with “GEO” written on it.
The cramped room was a few doors from my office. I looked through the large printed maps and geological surveys hanging in cupboards around the walls; after finding the right one, I placed it on the angled desk sitting in the middle of the room.
I had brought a copy of the plans with me to the map room, so I sat down and carefully compared the location of Olsen’s building on the plans against the geological survey. The survey showed a fifty-meter buffer between the site and the clay deposit.
That tallied with what I had found when first submitting the plans. The site was nowhere near the clay deposit that could destabilize the corner of the building. Yet there was water seeping through the concrete in a way that was consistent with clay.
It just made no sense.
I thought back to when I was creating the plans for the building, there had been a question mark on the corner where the water was now seeping through the wall. I had been worried, and so I had checked just prior to submission.
At the time, I was grateful that my concerns appeared to have been unfounded. Now, however, I was beginning to suspect there was more was going on here. I had been worried enough to double check in the first place, there must have been a good reason.
It suddenly occurred to me that maybe I HAD found an issue. The reason that it didn’t appear later was that someone had replaced the geological survey with one that had been modified to hide the clay deposit now causing all the trouble in the basement.
If the corner really was deep in a clay deposit, there was far more to worry about than a little bit of water seeping through the concrete wall. It could destabilize the foundations of the entire building and lead to catastrophic structural failure.
With horror, I realized that if my theory was correct, there was sufficient motivation for killing to keep it a secret. I was going to have to be very careful with my investigation; wrongfully ending up in prison may be the least of my problems.
I had to find the link back to Olsen and fast. I needed to locate the original geological surveys, assuming they still existed, and how they were switched out. It had to have been before I’d checked it, the day prior to submitting the final proposal.
The question was, how could I prove that the map had been replaced? The large print on the desk in front of me had been stored in this room, however, it was impossible to tell for how long. But… I drew my breath in sharply. There may be another way.
In addition to the printed copies, there were high-definition electronic copies stored on the company file server. Perhaps Olsen had forgotten to also replace the digital image. I put the print back in its place in the cupboard and returned to my desk.
I sat at my laptop and searched for the appropriate file. Every satellite image and geological survey was carefully cataloged and linked to the relevant projects. They were expensive to produce and were always reused whenever possible.
After a few moments of searching, I found the geological survey. I opened it eagerly, hoping that it would be different from the printed copy. Unfortunately, it soon became apparent that had been more thorough than I’d liked. Both images matched.
Frustrated, I sat back in my chair. I was getting nowhere. But then, it suddenly occurred to me. If the file had been replaced on the server, there should be a time stamp indicating when the file was changed. That was something Olsen may have missed.
Leaning into my screen, I checked the properties on the file. It showed that it had been modified just two days before I had submitted the proposal. So the map had been replaced. But I still needed to find the original and evidence of who replaced it.
Now that I knew there was an updated file, the old one would have to have been recorded somewhere in our company’s systems. Backups of all of our important data were kept for a year. I couldn’t obtain the relevant backup myself.
But I knew who could.