I wish I could say that I did a lot of research for the idea of Satan’s Gold, but I didn’t. At least not at first. What I did do was screw up my direct deposit form at my job by accidentally transposing two digits of my checking account number. The day I was supposed to get paid, I didn’t. I had bills to pay so I was concerned and reached out to my HR department. They quickly found my error and said they would fix it.
The next day I got a call from accounting saying they had fixed the problem and were cutting a check. I told them thanks. Later that day, HR called again and told me they had fixed the problem and were cutting me a check. I also got a call from the Federal Reserve. They had an electronic deposit with my name on it that had bounced. They believed that two of the digits had been transposed from my checking account and asked me to read them the correct number. I did so. They told me they would immediately deposit the missing money but to call my accounting department and get the numbers fixed so it wouldn’t happen again. I meekly told them I already had and hung up. Later that day, the money was deposited.
The Screw-Up Continued
The following Friday, on my next payday, my direct deposit worked flawlessly as promised. However, I also got four paper paychecks! One of the paychecks was for my missed pay period and one was for my current pay period. The other two checks looked completely different from the first two, but also seemed to be corrections of the missing pay period and the current period. I made more calls and was told that all four checks were not checks but direct deposit receipts and to just ignore them.
“So I should just throw them away?” I demanded. “Because they look exactly like a check should look.”
“Yes. They are not negotiable instruments.”
I threw the “receipts” into my office drawer. Three years later, a representative from the accounting department showed up at my supervisor’s office and accused me of embezzling company funds by getting paid twice for two different time periods.
“So are you saying I got paid twice or four times?” I asked in confusion.
“You received four paychecks you weren’t supposed to receive,” he clarified. “Two for each pay period.”
“Those weren’t paychecks. Those were direct deposit receipts. I was told that by your department after I informed them they had sent me four checks.”
He looked even more confused than I was so I found the uncashed “receipts”, including the letters that came with each. The accountant read them all and said he would track it down.
“Wait,” I said as he started to go. “Are those real checks or just receipts? I’m really confused.”
The accountant vowed to get to the bottom of it and left. I never heard from him again. I kept my job, and life went back to normal except I then started thinking about what would have happened if someone evil, say an unprincipled dyslexic hacker, had actually tried to embezzle funds. What would happen if he filled out a hundred screwed up, direct-deposit forms and submitted them all? Would the accounting department and the Federal Reserve fix the problems and give him a massive payday before anyone could figure out that he had simply transposed two digits fifty different times?
The Christmas Party
I never found out if it would work, although I did ask someone at HR about it at the annual Christmas Party. One of us was intoxicated, I won’t say who, so it didn’t get any traction. I chocked it up to accountants not liking to talk about missing paychecks and exactly how many pay periods are involved. But the next day, as I was nursing a bad hangover, I thought it would make a great book. The hero of the story would be an innocent engineer who had been fired for accidentally being paid twice for two different pay periods. The engineer then exacted revenge on the evil company accountants by having them all get paid twice for two different pay periods. Except that no one being able to figure out exactly how many pay periods everyone had not been paid for! I thought it was genius!
I began writing a novel. My editor wasn’t in love with the hero being an accountant, so after a few thousand revisions my company became the FBI, the accountants became evil hackers and terrorists, and the confused engineer became a brilliant ex-FBI agent who saved the world, got the girl, and rode off into the sunset, vowing to never use direct deposit ever again.