It’s sundown. Dusk maybe. Someone spits, just cause they can. Women and children shelter in the saloon flip-flop doors as men throw in their
A commotion was stirring—a god fearing, lustful, true-blue, gun fight was in the making. All that was missing was the music and some plaque-infested, toothless, cowboy whistling Dixie as he sauntered, menacingly into Town.
Unbelievably and as if on cue, a familiar figure waddled into view.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” someone remarked. “If it ain’t ole PJ Rancid. Recognise him in an instant.”
The poker boys all jostled for position at the saloon windows. “You sure is right, it’s him. God damn fool, what’s he be doing standing up to the likes of them SCU lot?”
Cowboy PJ Rancid, dressed in his recognisable Coyote suit and recently purchased diamante crucifix, stood defiant. Well at least that’s what he told himself. He knew there were but a few degrees of mild separation between that and arrogance but what was this dumb lot to know?
He has a new sidekick, someone pointed out. Unrecognisable yet uncannily familiar. “I bet you 10 bucks he’s a bloody crook.” The poker boys sniggered. Odds are he’s right and no one was willing to loose any amount of money on that lousy bet.
Unperturbed, PJ stood proudly behind his newly recruited replacement at ACC. It was Showtime. Time to take this to the next level. With a brotherly pat on the shoulder, PJ exited the crossfire zone and settled behind a robust beer barrel filled with golden handshake dosh.
This should be good, he told himself. Real good.
Dr P Dodwell (BMA, CIP, BLAH, IMHO) scuffed his cowboy boots in the dry soil and spat a lung full of tobacco over his right shoulder. Just like he was shown. He looked confident but deep down he was worried. His crude name change from 'did well' to Dodwell had the potential to throw the SCU hounds into a manic frenzy; the quantum leap from Australia to New Zealand might just tip them over the edge. He cast a dismayed look at his predecessor.
Go on... PJ urged, throwing his iconic plastic smile into the Netherlands.
“Fuckwit,” Doddy muttered as he jostled his gun belt from his sagging crutch. He’d been set up. He knew that now. Turning back, he faced the growing mob before him. It’s not like there’s a real enemy, he soothed. No axe-wielding murderers with witch cackle screams. Just some hormonal women with newly printed t-shirts picketing some imaginary line in the sand. Stupid bitches.
“What do we want?” ...Counselling!.... “When do we want it?” ...Now!
“Damn straight these crazy bitches need counselling,” PJ muttered. “But I’ll be fucked if I’m spending any money just to get them to act normal. Some are passed their sell by dates anyhow.”
PJ quickly straightened himself, releasing his manic grip on the beer barrel. I earned it, he told himself. Every single hundred-dollar-note. Putting up with this bunch of losers, I’m surprised I haven’t needed counselling myself. Now do your fucking job Doddy. Get bloody well in there and stop this shit before the Media gets here.
Suddenly, a whirlwind of dust rose up as a lone stranger rode bareback into town. Everyone stood mesmerised, waiting for the role that this newly developed hero would play. And hero he must have been for Doddy let out a magnificent “Whoop! Whoop!” at the mere sight of him.
It was a magnificent ‘Eureka’ moment for poor Doddy. A chance to swagger back into the shadows and allow this cowboy to take his adoring moment. If there’s one thing a scapegoat needs, it’s an even better one.
ACC’s chief executive, Ralph Stewart — aka Ralph—elegantly swung a leg over the horse’s head and dismounted. Both feet landed firmly on the picket line like a full stop in mid-sentence. A definite ‘Tada!’ moment and something not lost on the protesters.
“Who in the name of Zeus’ butthole are you?”
Ralph blushed. Butthole was not a word he’d come across a lot in his meagre time at ACC. For some reason, it seemed far more graphic than arse. Quite disturbing in fact.
“My name is Ralph and I come in good faith.”
He had rehearsed his lines well. Every word would be recorded, analysed, butchered in some way. He had to be careful. He knew that. This wasn’t just a spat of troubleshooting. No siree! This was ‘one of the worst privacy breaches in New Zealand history.’
“Ten bucks says he gets it in the nuts.”
A sudden hive of activity ruptured inside the Saloon as the poker boys emptied their pockets of cash: “I got a fiver on his balls as well!”
“Nah, the face man, the face!”
Unruffled, Ralph continued with his speech: “It would appear that a woman within ACC accidentally sent the details of 9000 claimants to an ACC client and although attempts were made to try and find the files frankly we should have done more.”
“Holy shit, make that fifty bucks the Growlers nail his balls to a fence!”
The Growlers—for want of a better word, such as beneficiaries, bludgers, mob, protesters, rioters, losers, or a bunch of steel-capped sexually frustrated lesbians—were also and perhaps more commonly referred to as claimants within the realms of ACC’s Sensitive Claims Unit. Whatever the terminology, they were undoubtedly the bane of ACC’s arse. Averaging expenditure of about $9 million per annum, they were, in fact, fast becoming ... um.. bloody well expensive.
The Claimants stood completely spellbound. Not because someone finally had the courage to address their concerns but because this News was so overwhelmingly crude and blatant—handled in the same haphazard way that earned PJ Rancid his reputation as a sly and loathsome coyote.
In light of recent ACC conflicts, this current breach reeked of sabotage—to make the SCU so inept as to warrant complete closure.
“Now I’m really paranoid. What if my sensitive claim was amongst those? I’ll never be able to leave my house again and face people. Just as I’m coming right after vigorous counselling too!”
“I’d better make another appointment with my counsellor,” someone muttered despondently.
Ralph straightened himself, pleased he’d emphasised the culprit was a woman. It might win this lot over. Of course, Ralph had no idea who the culprit was. The person’s identity was never released. Classified. Their privacy had to be maintained at all costs, he was told. Slightly ironic considering events but who was he to argue?
“Who the hell got this information?” barked a claimant.
The thought of their files, their information, their graphic and sexually explicit records being sent to an undisclosed source by an undisclosed staff member was too much for some to comprehend. “I thought our information was supposed to be safe” someone yelled. “I mean what is the point of the SCU setting itself up as this bloody almighty prison of data protecting our Rights, our information, our stories, our fucking lives for Christ’s sake, when you can fuck up so badly?
“The recipient, an ACC client, did not want to be named because they feared being swamped by telephone calls from other ACC clients concerned their details had been distributed nationwide.”
Ralph was loosing the battle. Instead of answers, he had merely encouraged questions.
“It’s alright,” he soothed, “the recipient blacked out all the personal details of claimants when providing documents to the Dominion Post.”
“A newspaper? They gave the information to a Newspaper?”
“ACC has implemented several safeguards to ensure all client information is protected and managed correctly.” Ralph could hear his voice rising above the rumbling discontent of his audience. Hestarted to sound paranoid. He certainly felt it — his statement was ridiculous especially in light of the circumstances. Stay strong, he told himself. Stay focused.
“Now just hang on a second here. You mean to say one person, and only one person sent information of such a vast volume to someone she shouldn’t have? What information exactly? When did this happen?”
Ralph shifted uncomfortably. ‘Don’t mention August. Don’t mention August.’ The small mantra sped around his head and gained momentum. It was threatening to burst from his mouth. Fishing for notes inside his jacket pocket, Ralph managed to give himself time... breathe God damn-it, breath... “It would appear this information was brought to our attention ...um... a lot later than it should.
“Oh stop piss-arsing around and answer the God-damn question. When?”
The crowd erupted just as Ralph feared. He’d been warned against mentioning specific dates but the month of August, that small worrisome detail weighed so heavily on his mind that for a brief moment, he actually felt relieved. It was out there now, he told himself. But now was a different story. Now he was positively scared. The crowds words were merging together, peaking hysterically as the dry acrid dust encircled the scene. Fists punched through the air and set Ralph’s loyal stallion into a frenzied gallop, back to whence he came.
“Now now ladies....”
“Don’t you now now ladies us you incompetent prick. Seven months after the event and what, you’re finally coming clean?”
“They’re not coming clean,” someone barked, “they’re troubleshooting. All the Media is over this." As if to prove her point, she thrust her new Blueberry into the air; the small screen displayed the headlines “ACC sorry for breach of privacy.”
Doddy shifted his feet uncomfortably. Privacy. Not his favourite word. More like a heinous umbilical cord that linked him straight back to Australia and his own brush with the Law. Bloody women, he cursed. As if to distract himself, Doddy looked over his shoulder and cursed his cowardly predecessor. How much does he know, Doddy wondered. Is that why I was hired?
“In addition to privacy breaches, it appears ACC staff are covertly communicating with advisors to manipulate medical reports in ACC’s favour.”
Doddy’s heart started to beat rapidly. The protester reading from her Blueberry phone was hitting way too close to home. He considered making a run for it—jumping in one elegant ‘John Wayne’ manoeuvre onto the horse. The horse, God Damn-it, more devious than him had already bolted while the lethargic dog—hardly a compromise—now seemed remarkably gleeful, skirting in and out of the protesters, keeping the acrid dust animated.
“Oi you!” someone yelled.
...to be continued....