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Chapter five: Daffy Triumphs

Preface… Daffy has brought Matt Harris to the warehouse where she hopes to confront the Phantom. She has an idea she has not shared with him. Daffy succeeds in bringing forth the Phantom that reacted violently by striking down Matt and, as Daffy rushes to help, the Phantom prepares to strike him again.

The Phantom smashed a grey fist into Matt a second time but, this time, the young man made no sound.

“Stop it! You’re killing him!” Daffy shouted. She had reached the table and, in a moment of inspiration, picked up the PC monitor and lifted it over her head. “Stop or I’ll smash the computer to pieces,” she said with icy calmness. Daffy stared at the grey form all fear drained out of her.

The Phantom took a step toward her its eyes full of hatred. Daffy lifted the monitor higher. “Stop it, Frank. If I destroy this you will be stuck here forever.”

The Phantom hesitated. Its enraged demeanor changed to resignation and it stared at Daffy waiting for her to make the next move. Matt Harris struggled to his feet all signs of fear gone. He stepped directly in front of the Phantom and looked it up and down before walking over to Daffy.

“You can put the monitor down. He can’t hurt us,” Matt said calmly taking it from Daffy and setting it back onto the table.

“I thought he had hurt you,” Daffy said relieved. “Maybe even killed you.”

“No. And it’s a good thing for him because, if I were suddenly part of his spirit world, I’d kick his vaporous ass ‘til he’d think he had been reincarnated as a soccer ball”. Matt was calm but angry. “When he hit me it was like being stabbed with an icicle… cold and frightening… until I realized that’s all it was. He can’t hurt us.”

Daffy returned her attention to the Phantom standing in front of her beaten and defeated. “You’re stuck here aren’t you?” she asked. Her tone was now compassionate. “You have an unresolved conflict. You never received any respect or had any success as a Cycle Counter and can’t move on until this is resolved.”

The Phantom’s expression changed to desperate hopefulness as if there was a thread of hope where none had existed.

Daffy pressed on. “When I installed the computer you watched, learned and began to hack your way to knowledge of my program. You saw an opportunity to become an excellent Cycle Counter and, perhaps, escape this fate. But you did not understand that we used a four-wall inventory system. When you were counting old part numbers you were a puzzle and an inconvenience but, when you began counting active parts, you became dangerous.”

The Phantom’s expression was openly hopeful and Daffy knew she was correct on every point.

“I can help you,” Daffy said with a smile.

“Huh?” Matt was surprised that the goal had changed from stopping the Phantom to helping him.

“Earlier today I set all these part numbers up…” she motioned to the entire warehouse with the wave of her arm, “as a separate location called WRHS… for “warehouse.” When I deliver parts to the factory, I will issue them to a backflush location called FCTY… for “factory.” By maintaining a separate on-hand balance for this warehouse and separating it from the backflush location, you can cycle count this warehouse as often - and as long - as you wish as long as you adjust only the WRHS location.”

Matt Harris’ jaw dropped at the brilliance of Daffy’s solution. “Of course,” he said with surprise and pleasure. “Old Frank gets to work out his hang-ups, you get a dedicated, full time Cycle Counter for this warehouse, the overall inventory is unaffected and the only downside is that you have to generate issue transactions for parts you deliver to the factory.”

Daffy was impressed with Matt’s quick assessment of the situation. “And, since I won’t have to cycle count this warehouse any more, I’ll have time to spare even with the addition of those issue transactions.

Matt nodded. “Wow,” he said admiringly. “And none of this will provide ammunition for Louis Smith.”

The Phantom reacted to the name Louis Smith with an expression that revealed both fear and anger.

“Oh, you know him do you?” Matt asked as the realization of the facts slowly dawned on him. “Of course you do. Smith was probably my age when you died. I can imagine the delight he took rubbing your nose in variances over which you had no control.”

“He’s still with the company… he’s the Controller now”, Daffy added. “And he is as just nasty as you remember him. He’s in charge of IT too.”

“That means he’s my boss’ boss,” Matt said realizing the phantom was unlikely to recognize the term IT. “He is in charge of computer operations.”

The Phantom’s expression was now one of gratitude toward Daffy and, with Matt’s last statement, it turned to a triumphant smile. The grey form began to shift, features became indistinct and, shortly, there was only a grey mist that condensed into a narrow band. Matt and Daffy stepped apart as the grey mist flowed between them and settled into the slotted heat vents in the top of the PC monitor.

Daffy and Matt looked at each other. “I don’t like this,” Daffy said.

Matt smiled. “But it ought to be interesting.” He paused. “How about the Golden Dragon? Assuming you like Chinese food.” Matt could tell Daffy wasn’t following him. “It’s Friday. Remember asking me out for tonight?”

“Oh, yes,” Daffy said now remembering. “I love Chinese food.”

“So how does this work when the woman asks the man?” Matt asked teasingly. “Does the woman pay or does the guy always pay no matter what?”

“I asked so I’ll pay,” Daffy replied with a smile. She knew Matt was teasing her and she was enjoying it immensely.

She closed the creaky wooden doors and turned toward her car. Matt stopped her and without a word pulled her to him and enveloped her in his arms. They stood there embracing for a few moments. It was an embrace of affection mixed with the bonding that occurs naturally when two people have overcome an emotional trial. They held hands as they slowly walked toward the car.

For the next several months Daffy’s inventory system for the warehouse worked flawlessly. She received parts into the warehouse and issued them to the factory when removing them. In between, the Phantom cycle counted. And how he counted. Each day Daffy would check the audit sheet and be amazed at the quantity of counts performed… the “A” items every week, the “B” items every month, and the “C” items every quarter. When Louis Smith asked about the apparent obsessive focus on the warehouse inventory, Daffy explained she was just giving her new disciplines, and Matt’s programming, a meaningful test. Normally, Smith would not allow someone to get away with such a feeble answer but he was preoccupied with his own problem. A few weeks after Daffy’s deal with the Phantom, the paychecks of the company’s top people began to suffer serious errors. One time the decimal point was printed two spaces to the left. The next time, each check was for ten million dollars. Big River Products operated a “payroll A”. The salaries of the President, Vice- Presidents, department heads and key technical personnel were held in such confidence that only Louis Smith had access to the data and only he could instruct the computer to print these checks. At least in the past he had exclusive access. But for the past few paydays he had to write all the checks by hand because he could not figure out what had happened to his program. At the end of the year, he had to tell the President that, apparently through a computer error, too little tax had been withheld from these paychecks for the past several months and everyone on payroll A should expect to pay come tax time. A few days later, a terse announcement informed everyone that Louis Smith had retired. His replacement came from within and the ripples were felt at lower levels as Matt Harris was promoted to Systems Analyst.

Daffy’s abilities were also recognized as Donna Wright promoted her to the new position of Engineering Change Coordinator. Daffy asked to keep responsibility for the warehouse for awhile explaining that she was not yet prepared to teach it all to a new person. Donna Wright thought it strange that Daffy should worry about giving up responsibility for such a simple system but agreed anyway. She sensed that there was something going on that was better left alone.

In February, Daffy and Matt Harris were engaged to be married. The wedding was set for July… one year from the day of their first date.

After Louis Smith’s retirement, the quantity of cycle counts from the warehouse began to decrease. Then one day in March the daily audit sheet had no numbers just a brief message on the bottom. “Thank you and goodbye.”

Frank Predum, the Phantom, had found peace.  

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