Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Aphrodite Shuddered - Chapter 9

Chapter 9
Mother Knows Best

August 1986
Only halfheartedly looking for a new job, I was still collecting unemployment checks. But as for Tina, she didn't remain unemployed for very long. Just last week, Seattle's only four-star hotel - the Rainier Plaza - took her on as a part-time front-desk clerk at higher wages than what Hilton had paid her, and offered good prospects for promotion. Therefore, I felt somewhat less guilty for having indirectly caused her termination at the Hilton. After Tina lost her job, I was too fearful of her hair-trigger temper to tell her about my role in that. But now I was finally emboldened enough to broach the subject with her.

The first weekend after she got hired, the three of us celebrated the happy occasion by attending Sunday brunch at Rainier Plaza, a massive, 1920s-era hotel whose masonry exterior walls with their decorative terra cotta “gingerbread” made the place resemble a glorified county courthouse. But its huge lobby and other public spaces were quite beautiful, with winding staircases of pink marble and wrought iron, the glossy walnut furniture, vividly colorful Tiffany stained-glass lamps and soaring, cathedral-like vaulted ceilings.

I sensed a happily expansive mood at our table as we partook of the Rainier's first-class buffet. At least, I felt that way myself. Between bites of eggs Benedict and a delectably seasoned fried salmon cake, I said to Tina. “This place sure puts the Hilton to shame. I guess things didn't workout too badly after all.”

Tina cut into tender roast leg of lamb and replied, “Yeah, I should get fired more often, huh.”

“I was feeling sort of responsible for that, but now - “

She glanced up, pretty brown eyes flashing at me. “Whaddya mean by that, Herc?”

You know, for ratting-out A.J. - and not just for the drive-by. He made this sleazy video tape with Marta, see, and - ”

“I was wonderin' when you'd bring that up.” Undoubtedly she had learned of the offending tape from Angie, who studiously avoided my gaze and made a big show of enjoying her thick, pastry-like waffles topped with fresh blueberries and whipped cream:

“Mmmm - yummy!”

“The tape, you mean?” I asked rhetorically, stalling for time to think. “I was going to tell you about it, that day at your mom's place when those guys in the car shot at us. But after that happened, it didn't seem important anymore.”

Chewing intently, Tina waved her silver fork and muttered, “Whatever. I don't see what that had to do with me anyways.”

“The thing is, A.J. made the tape at a room at the Hilton, on top of whatever illegal crap he was doing there. I didn't know that at the time, though.” The last sentence is basically true, although glossing-over details which I considered extraneous.

Tina slowly shook her head. “Sheeit, you were sooo concerned about that little bitch. Did'ja ever fuck her or git a blow job? Tell the truth, now.”

“Oh, hell no!” I hissed with honest indignation. “And would you please tone it down? People are looking at us.” Then I signed and continued. “Okay, so I kissed her once or twice - but that's all. Actually, she kissed me once or twice.” I had left out only one extraneous detail: Marta, while we were together in Tina's bathroom several months ago, had rubbed my bulging fly while attempting to slide her tongue down my throat.

Tina turned to Angie and jerked her thumb in my direction. “That evil temptress tried to molest this poor innocent boy - HA! Whaddya think, Ange? Do ya believe that bool-shit?

“Sure I believe him - Denny's always been such a lousy liar,” Angie replied with a wry expression on her face.

“Yer damn lucky, smart guy - this time,” Tina said portentously.

* * *
Sept. 1986
Servercomp, the dial-up online service I had invested in, had now been in business for three months. Our very first users were computer hobbyists who operated online forums and bulletin boards . In exchange for letting us host their members' activities on our servers, we paid these hobbyists - called “sysops” in online lingo - a nominal fee and gave them toll-free access to our servers from anywhere in the US (thanks to a ruling by the Federal Communications Commission in 1985, long-distance rates for sending/receiving computer data were much lower than for voice communication). The recent advent of certain internet protocols allowed Servercomp's servers easy access to the large number of independent servers connected to USENET, a loosely-knit nationwide network of computer enthusiasts who ran newgroups, bulletin boards and online forums. Those features, in turn, attracted a flood of new users from the Seattle area (and some from out-of-state) who wanted access to the free online games, primitive email services and file exchange services that our affiliates provided. As an added attraction, we also offered chatting in real-time, which was something relatively new in the small online world.

Having plenty of time on my hands, I spent every weekend and many weeknights on-call, connecting to the servers on my new IBM-PC from home to ensure that everything was functioning properly. The clunky PC and mind-numbingly slow dial-up modem had set me back $2,000. In order to stop the alarming drain on my bank accounts, I had recently accepted a deadly dull temp job as a data entry specialist.

After three months in business, Servercomp had thousands of frequent users but no revenue was coming in. So far, the only one making any money was our accountant. Fortunately that was soon to change, since our advertising campaign appearing in various computer magazines had just hit the newsstands. Within a few weeks, hundreds of people were paying us $25 per month to gain online access. The initial ad campaign generated just enough cash-flow to cover the lease payments on the building and the high monthly phone bill, much to the relief of all the investors.

* * *
Dec. 1986
Angie, Tina, and I celebrated our first Christmas together, and Angie insisted that I invite my mother over for Christmas dinner. Angie's own mom still lived in southern California, where she moved after her father, Angelo, died in a car wreck in Seattle almost two years ago. I recalled with embarrassment the patronizing tone with which my sainted mother spoke to me last February, when she found out I was dating a black woman.

"She's not gonna appreciate our living arrangements," I whined in dread anticipation..

"Herc's afraid of his own mama, Ange," Tina said, just before busting a gut.

"Okay, you asked for it," I muttered. So then I invited my 48-year old Fundamentalist Christian mother to Christmas dinner.

On Christmas Day, mother and I were having a conversation at my apartment: “...So, honey, how's that business venture of yours going?”

“Oh, it's going, all right. Nobody's making any money yet, unfortunately.”

“What is it that your company does, again? I never have really understood it.”

“Well, to be honest, neither have I, ma, “I replied with a chuckle. “The simplest way to describe it is that we provide a way for people to send written messages to each other on their computers.”

“And how is that done?”

“Over phone lines.”

“Sounds like a fancy way to send telegrams.”

“It is, ma. Only it's much, much cheaper.”

That's a rather impersonal way to communicate. I think I'll stick with the telephone.”

“Who knows, ma? Some day you might be able to talk on the computer.”

“Well, I'll be. So, how much does a computer cost?”

“About two grand.”

“I'll keep my phone, thank you very much.”

Tina came home from her visiting her mother just as Angie, my mother and I were setting the table for dinner. "Ma, I'd like to introduce you to Tina."

Mother's personality was half Roman matron-half southern belle: She told me: "Tina is a lovely creature, Denton - "

"Tina lives here, ma. She moved in over four months ago - "

"Splitting the rent three ways - how economical!"

As Tina strode into the dining room just then, I replied to mother, "That's not exactly why - "

"Missus Smith, it's so nice to meet you!" said Tina with a huge smile plastered on her face.

"It's a pleasure to finally meet you, my dear.” Turning to me, she teased, “Denton has always been secretive - haven't you, son?"

My cheeks burned as I replied, "Naw - I was getting around to it."

We ate dinner (which featured a slightly burnt turkey) and made more awkward conversation. Finally, mother took her leave. "Well, I have to pay a few more calls, so I'll be on my way." Then I walked her to her car. "Merry Christmas, honey. I hope you and Angie get married and give me some grandkids. Angie loves you very much, Praise the Lord."

"I know she does. I, I love them both, ma."

"You'll be badly hurt, dear."

I nodded involuntarily, as if in agreement, although I replied: "Yeah, well, that might be true, but I'll be no worse-off than I was before. G'night, ma."

When I went back inside, Tina flatly stated: “Yer mama hates me, Herc.”

“Tsk, she doesn't hate you any more than your mother hates me.”

“Yup - she hates me.”

Copyright 2015 by K.D. Bishop

Friday, January 09, 2015

Aphrodite Shuddered - Chapter 8 (revised)

Chapter 8
(Mostly) True American History

Late-June 1986
Owing to the combustible mixture of sizzling temperatures, high sexual tension and excessive alcohol consumption, summertime in the US is often referred to as The Silly Season, and Americans tend to blow-off political steam that time of year. On occasion, especially in wartime, they express their seasonal exuberance by rioting in the streets, but in most years they just have angry public debates about whatever hot-button issue the media happen to be hyping at that moment. Due to the influence of a conservative electorate (and the absence of a major war), the media's boogiemen of choice during that summer of '86 were drugs and pornography.

The re-election of President Roland R Regulus in 1984 had seemingly reaffirmed the conservative social policies that his administration had espoused in his first term. Not surprisingly, though, there was a severe dichotomy between political ideals and societal reality. Although the administration paid heavy lip-service to family values, law-and-order and all-around clean living, the volume of hard drugs being smuggled into the United States had never been greater. To help combat this drug crisis, the First Lady - Nan Regulus - earnestly advised America's youth: “Just Say Uh-Uh”.

Here's a perverse example of the Regulus Administration's get-tough-on-criminals policy: Since the early-80s, the White House had been flouting federal law by illegally funding anti-Sandanista insurgents in Nicaragua with the proceeds derived from the sale of TOW missiles to Iran. However, after a congressional hearing blew their cover in 1985, the president's operatives needed to find new surreptitious sources of cash. By mid-1986, rumor had it that profits from cocaine now flooding-in from Columbia were being used to finance the administration's private war on communism in Nicaragua and El Salvador. But about that sordid subject, the nation's major news organizations remained silent.

On the pornography front, the ultra-conservative US Attorney-General Edwin Moose got the summer silliness rolling by publicly denouncing the newsstand display of obscene materials such as Playboy magazine, as well as vilifying “filthy lyrics in rock and rap so-called music”. Those public statements were laughable, but what occurred next was not very funny: one of America's most famous (or infamous) porn stars, Tammi Lorraine (born Wanda Mae Glutzenheimer), who purportedly was in her early-20s, caused a legal firestorm upon announcing last week that she was only 15-years old when her “motion picture” career began, three years before. She had managed to gain employment in the porn industry through the use of a faked California driver's license obtained from her mother's sleazy no-good boyfriend. During the years in which Miss Glutzenheimer was a minor, her producers had released dozens of titles featuring her - all of them top sellers.

Attorney-General Moose responded within 24-hours by ordering the largest search-and-seizure operation in American history. Federal law enforcement reacted so quickly that it seemed like the Department of Justice had been poised and ready to pounce, as though Tammi Lorraine was part of a government sting operation.

So, thousands of FBI agents and US Marshals, in search of her illegally produced hardcore films, immediately began conducting raids on every adult video outlet and distributor in the country. Producers and distributors who had ever marketed Lorraine's sex films soon found themselves in jail. And over the next week, almost a million copies of her tapes and films were pulled from store shelves and eventually destroyed. At the same time, Moose issued a statement warning private owners of her films/tapes to destroy all of them in their possession - or else face a prison term if caught with them (I sheepishly admit to having once owned a Tammi Lorraine sex tape, although I had already thrown it away long ago due to its being worn-out from repeated viewings).

The FBI's parallel investigation of the interstate commerce in pornography revealed additional illegal films (unrelated to the Lorraine case), touching-off a wave of mass arrests in the environs of San Fernando Valley, California, where most commercial X-rated videos were produced. Then Congress quickly sprang into action (an exceedingly rare occurrence indeed): the House Majority Leader fast-tracked stringent new federal laws requiring producers of X-rated films/videos to maintain meticulous records on all performers and to verify their legal status as adults, on pain of a harsh prison sentence. The Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued subpoenas to leading porn industry producers, ordering them to testify before the committee (but not until after Congress' four-week summer vacation).

Around the nation, church groups and concerned mothers picketed and chanted slogans (“NO MORE PORN!”) outside the dwindling number of adult movie theaters, which by now were being supplanted by home video. The only people still patronizing them were those in the market for a prostitute or who couldn't afford a VCR.

In Seattle that summer, one of the last remaining adult movie houses in the city - The Embassy Theater - shut its doors permanently after a pipe-bomb exploded inside its nearly empty auditorium. A few days later, the United States Attorney for Seattle, flanked on either side by the Prince County Prosecutor and Sheriff Pat Nuttingham, announced at a press conference the federal RICO indictments of various “officers” of the BWM gang. The gang, as an entity, was charged with the production and interstate transport of child pornography, and conspiracy to promote prostitution across state lines, along with more mundane charges of money laundering and drug trafficking. This was all very surreal to me, after having played a small role in this affair.

As for Tammi Lorraine, things turned-out rather well for her. Legally, she got off scot-free and managed to use her current notoriety as a springboard to a mainstream movie career, with cult comedy producer/director Jim Walters having recently signed her to a three-picture deal.

Eventually, the federal criminal charges against Tammi Lorraine's agents and producers were quietly dropped, for one very embarrassing reason: Two years before, while Tammi was still a minor, the government had issued her a US passport on the basis of the same phony driver's license she had used to get hired in adult films in the first place! 

Copyright 2014 by K.D. Bishop 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Aphrodite Shuddered - Chapter 7

Chapter 7
Moving On

Early-May, 1986
For my final month of employment at Xeno, I was given the rather humiliating assignment of training my own replacement, Shelly, a 19-year old computer science undergrad recently hired at half my hourly pay. This was typical of management's new “Resource Consolidation Policy”. But aside from that, I was, ironically, a casualty of computer automation, since many of the more complex operations on the Unisys mainframe could now be performed by lesser-skilled employees (and fewer of them). Nonetheless, Xeno, before booting me to the curb, wanted to suck out the contents of my brain: In order to assist the intelligent but ill-prepared Shelly, I had to write a “cheat book”, a user manual breaking-down, in intricate detail, every process and keystroke needed to perform System Administrator duties on the Unisys most efficiently. When I finally completed the two-inch thick manual, the instructions therein were dumbed-down enough to teach a high-school dropout to do my former job.
But all the workplace aggravation couldn't dampen my excitement over ServerComp, a brand-new corporation in which I held a 10% stake (albeit without a vote in corporate decision-making, as I discovered later). I didn't even consider the offer of $10,000 to sell my shares back to the corporation. Two days after refusing that offer, I found out that Allen Paulsen, a high-level executive at Microno Software, had just purchased the last available 2 ½ % block of shares for $60,000.
Overcome with an unrealistic sense of grandeur, I had congratulated myself for getting in step with the rapid advance of computer technology. In reality, though, I was merely a silent partner in a risky venture whose technology I barely fathomed. ServerComp's internet node was scheduled to go “live” to the public in less than a month, but it would take a lot of time - if ever - before we could realize any return on our original investment. To make matters worse, we still lacked sufficient capital, as most of it was budgeted for an expensive advertising campaign in magazines that catered to PC/Mac enthusiasts. However, without effective advertising, we'd be out of business within a year anyway.

* * *
Five days had elapsed since I last heard from Tina, since the day after Sharon's party, and she was apparently ignoring my phone calls and messages. On Friday evening, I hung-up the phone and asked Angie, “Has Tina gotten a hold of you lately? Every time I call her apartment, all I get is her answering machine.”
“Same here. I did talk to her when she was at work - Tuesday night, I think - but she was real busy. I haven't heard from her since.”
“Okay. I just tried calling the hotel, but it's almost impossible to get through tonight. Fuck it, she won't have time for chit-chat anyway.” Next morning, still getting no response from her, we drove down to Sea-Tac to see if she was all right. At her apartment building, her aged Toyota Corolla was parked in its assigned space, so we went upstairs. We rang the doorbell and called-out her name for a minute before she finally came to the door, which then creaked opened as far as the latched security chain allowed. It was nearly 1pm but judging by her dazed expression, we had obviously awakened her from a dead sleep. “Well, are you gonna invite us in or what?” I jokingly asked.
She coughed into her fist and replied with a husky voice, “Yeah, come on in.”
As we entered, Angie said, “Sweetie, are you sick? You sure look it.”
Tina, dressed only in a pink terrycloth robe, smoothed back her short Afro 'doo and yawned, “Naw, I'm ah-ight.”
The glass coffee table in the darkened living room was cluttered with empty Michelob bottles, broken potato chips and remnants of pizza crust. Even more surprising was the faint odor of stale cigarette smoke. I couldn't recall the last time her apartment looked anything less than spotless. Although this caused me concern, I tried to make light of it: “Looks like you've been on a three-day drunk, Amazon.”
“Anybody got a cigarette? I'm dyin' for one.”
My jaw dropped in disbelief. “You've taken up smoking?” She's the one who always made me brush my nicotine-tinged teeth for 15 minutes before letting me kiss her. “Now I know something's wrong.”
She sank down in a plush armchair and took amateurishly shallow puffs on a one of Angie's long brown cigarettes. “I got fuckin' fired, that's what's wrong.”
“Oh no,” Angie groaned in sympathy. “You? I can't believe that! When did it happen?”
“Couple-a days ago. I wasn't fired, exactly - encouraged to resign is more like it. The manager told me that if I cooperated with the cops and quit without causin' a scene, he'd write me a really good letter of recommendation.” She gestured to a beer-stained business envelope on the table. Then she chuckled without humor and said, “Sheeit, I got about 20 bucks in the bank, still owe this month's rent and part of last month's, and yesterday I found out that by quitting my job, I ain't eligible for fuckin' Unemployment!”
I patted her slender shoulder and said, “Now don't get all depressed about your bills - we got you covered. Anyway, I'm sure you'll find a job in no time - ”
Angie: “But what did the cops have to do with it?”
Tina: “Aw, well, they claimed there were crimes goin'-on inside the hotel - mostly when I was workin' the front desk.”
“Let me guess,” I interjected. “A.J. was involved in it.”
“Yeah, no shit.” According to what Tina told me next, Hilton Hotel Security had been cooperating with a Sheriff's Office investigation of A.J., pertaining to crimes allegedly committed there. It took little time for the police to link her with A.J., since some of Hilton's security guards, not to mention her co-workers, were already aware of their on-again off-again relationship. Then Tina said bitterly, “I loved my job and wanted to work there forever. I had no fuckin' idea what A.J. was up to, and if I did, I would never stand for it!”
“What, exactly, was he accused of doing?” I asked, although I already knew or had deduced many of the details, of which I had no inclination to share with her at this moment.
“Drugs - what else. You know I ain't got nothin' to do with fuckin' dope! And then the cops asked me if he ever brought young chicks there - underage chicks. You think I would put up with that pervert shit?” Her rhetorical question sounded a bit on the defensive side, and I couldn't help wondering if she knew more than she let on. But as I had never known her to lie about anything, she deserved the benefit of the doubt. I still remembered the time that she called A.J. a child molester right to his face, in reaction to his illicit dalliance with Marta.
Angie, who was half-sitting on the arm of Tina's chair, abruptly changed the subject. “Me and Denny were talking the other day - we want you to live with us.”
Tina thoughtfully exhaled a stream of smoke and then replied, “Last time you guys asked me to move-in with you, I made some long speech about not wantin' to give-up my independence. I'd feel like a fuckin' leech if I move-in with you now.”
I said, “Oh, screw that b-s, Amazon. We love you, and we want you with us.” Angie's caressing hand reached out for Tina's.
Her cat-like brown eyes shining with tears, Tina said, almost inaudibly, “Me too.” Then she added, with a wan smile, “At least yer not livin' in that nasty-ass trailer anymore.”

* * *
Within a few days of Tina moving into our apartment, some of our neighbors became keenly curious about the unusual trio who lived next door. I tried not to encourage the attractive middle-age married couple down the hall, who had hinted broadly that they too were in an open relationship. The cute 18-year old girls who shared an apartment nearby now gave me huge smiles whenever we happened to run into each other. Having lived there only a very short time, I merely responded with a tight smile and friendly nod.
As Tina settled into her new home, she told me a little more about the police interrogation she had undergone: “...And the cops showed me surveillance photos of two Asian dudes - I could tell they were taken in the hotel parking lot. I did recognize one of them in particular, from when they checked-in at the desk. He had dead, glassy black eyes like Jaws or somethin', like he'd just as soon cut yer throat as lookatcha. After I looked at the photos, this asshole detective started talkin' some stupid shit about how I supposedly let these guys register under fake names, like I'm part of some conspiracy. Hell, both of them paid cash up-front, so what do I care what names they used?”
“So, these guys were tied-up with A.J. somehow,” I presumed.
Tina shrugged her shoulders. “I wouldn't know, and the cops weren't sayin'.”
A few days later, while eating lunch in the Xeno cafeteria, I glanced at a discarded newspaper on the table and took notice of this article:
Victim ID'ed in Nightclub Drive-by Shooting
A man shot and killed outside a downtown Seattle club early Saturday morning has been identified as Anthony Davis of South Seattle...Davis, age 36, was released on bond from the Prince County Jail on May 10th, three days prior to being gunned-down in front of The Joint, a popular nightclub featuring recorded hip-hop music...The club has been the scene a string of violent incidents dating back to 1984...Davis, reportedly a top lieutenant in the BWM street gang, was arrested on drug charges last April 3rd during a Sheriff's Office sweep of residences rented or owned by BWM gang members. Davis was already wanted on an outstanding warrant in Snohomish County for his alleged participation in a drive-by shooting in Everett, but that charge was later dropped due to lack of evidence...
As the initial shock of learning about Davis' death faded, I thought it strange that he had been let out of jail at all - the court had originally denied him bail since he was considered a serious flight risk. But now it seemed he had cut some sort of deal with the County Prosecutor. If that was true, it very well could have been the reason behind his murder.
There had been many shootings, stabbings and brawls at The Joint over the years, so I had barely taken notice of this latest incident. From what little I remembered of the initial report, the victim had been machine-gunned by a man on a motorcycle. The shooter had worn a visor-ed helmet and unremarkable clothing, making identification impossible.
Certain Asian gangs favored the utilization of assassins on 'cycles, although there was no evidence of it in this case, merely my own speculation based upon Davis' apparent link to Asian gangsters. Was it only coincidental that soon before he was bailed-out, local and federal law enforcement began making a nuisance of themselves to the major heroin smugglers and human traffickers on the West Coast?

Copyright 2014 by K.D. Bishop

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Aphrodite Shuddered - Chapter 6

Chapter 6
Computer Game

Late-April 1986
The illegal sex video I had turned-over to Detective Jameson began an investigation which now appeared to have pried open a large can of criminal worms. Evidence gathered during a police raid of a BWM gang stash-house, two months later, quickly led to subsequent raids of other properties in the Seattle area. While searching those gang-financed apartments and houses, police found residing in one house additional Chinese girls, some of them underage - none spoke more than a few words of English and all were undocumented. Arrested at the scene were two adult women, who were, curiously enough, Chinese-Canadians from the Vancouver, British Columbia area. Both were now sitting in Prince County Jail, charged with conspiracy to promote prostitution. That same day at yet another gang property, several runaway/homeless teen girls, presumably American citizens, were placed under protective custody. All this was a triumph for Sheriff Nuttingham and his hitherto demoralized deputies, since the flurry of publicity from these stunning arrests had pushed the unwelcome Grand Jury-probe out of the headlines. I could only laugh ruefully upon the realization that my uncharacteristic act of good citizenship had probably helped to ensure Nuttingham's re-election come November.

Within days of that police operation (coincidentally or not), US Customs and the US Department of Immigration conducted surprise inspections at container facilities located at seaports all along the West Coast. To the surprise of absolutely no-one, Customs officials at the Port of Seattle had seized scores of kilos of China White which were hidden inside counterfeit merchandise. Of greater interest was what had been found on cargo ships moored at the California ports of Long Beach and Oakland: The Feds had discovered nearly 100 Chinese citizens who had fled crushing rural poverty only to sell themselves into lives of indentured servitude in the United States - all for the chance for a better life in the distant future. They all had been found crammed inside 40-foot containers, having survived (or died) in horrid living conditions during their interminable voyage from Hong Kong.

* * *
While the public and the news media were in an uproar about the cruelty of human trafficking, I received the not unexpected bad news: My position at Xeno was to be eliminated along with 300 others, effective June 1st, in six weeks. I felt sorrier for my affected co-workers than I did for myself, though, since I had a good chunk of money in the bank - thanks to my parsimonious habits. So what the hell am I gonna do now? It was cold comfort knowing I could always accept the as-yet unspecified job offered through MJ Recruiters - a job I would never be allowed to discuss with anyone.

A few days after the ax fell, Joey, a young computer programmer, visited my cubicle. He too was losing his job. Joey, who was well-paid but usually flat broke, was always regaling coworkers with pie-in-the-sky money-making schemes. "Denny! How's it hangin'? Hey, have you heard? Herb, myself, and some other friends are starting a business. Herb thinks it can't miss."

Busily editing a new technical manual, I muttered distractedly, "What is it this time, Joey - Amway distributorships?"

He waved his pudgy hands at me. "No wait man - this is for real! We're gonna start an online service provider like Compuserve and Prodigy - hell, why slave for a corporation when we can do the exact same thing for ourselves. This damned lay-off kinda threw a monkey wrench into our plans, though."

I stopped typing and said, "Let me guess - you don't have enough money to get it off the ground, right?" I tried to conceal my interest but it wasn't easy.

"Heh-heh - you're a real psychic, Denny. Seriously, though, I was wondering if you'd like to invest 5,000-dollars in our start-up company.”

"You software developers make tons of bucks, compared to me. Doesn't Herb have five grand? I thought he was loaded."

"You know how it is. Everybody's still in a state of shock - and mortgaged to the rafters, of course. Shit, I had to trade-in my fuckin' Jag XJ to scrape up a few more thousand for the business - we're calling it ServerComp, by the way. The thing is, Denny, that I need the five grand soon so I can close a deal on some office space. The school district used it as a data center, but it's up for lease."

"Why is it so important to use that place for an office? Hell, run the business out of your garage like Milt Gaines and Steve Workman did, back in the seventies." Gaines and Workman were the co-founders of the rapidly expanding Microno Software Corporation based in Redmond, Washington.

"It's kinda technical to explain it in the King's English you use to write those tech manuals of yours, but that building is already wired with a T3 data connection, which means that a helluva lot of remote users can be logged-in at the time time through a single phone line. It's not cheap to set-up something like that from scratch. Now, if we don't get it together in a hurry, the dollars just don't add up. But if I can swing that lease by the end of the month, we could eventually expand the data network capacity to thousands of connections simultaneously!"

"Hmm, no kidding. That reminds me of when I was in the military, when I worked with a big government computer network called ARAPNET."

Joey's hands clapped together resoundingly. "Exactly! But now it's called the In-ter-net - like in that movie, War Games."

"I never did get around to seeing that movie," I said idly, suddenly feeling five years behind the times - my job skills obsolete at the ripe age of 27.

Joey continued, "Anyway, you can send data all over the country or play computer games - tap into university research material, even. Ron Oldham down in Experimental Research told me that in a few years anyone will be able to send and receive video and audio anywhere in the world with a PC and modem. By the way, Ron's one of the investors. He gave me and Herb the idea for the business, in fact. He runs an online message board and chat room as a hobby."
"Well let me think about it for a day or two. I know it's only five grand, but I'll be out on my ass in a few weeks, so - "

Joey's beady eyes suddenly looked desperate. "If you invest now, you'll get a 10 percent share of the business. My lawyer can set it up. Here, let me give you his card."

I asked, "How much capital have you raised?"

"About 50 grand of working capital, and we already have most of the hardware. We're gonna network PCs in such a way that they function like one big computer."

After making the rounds in the office and speaking with several co-workers who were investing in ServerComp, I decided to take the plunge. The start-up's investors - the ones who had not received a termination notice - were programmers and systems analysts, mostly single people with disposable income, so I thought they might stand a chance. At the end of the day, I peeked over the wall of Joey's cubicle: "All right, Joey, it's a deal. Five grand for 10 percent." We shook hands. "I've been meaning to get in on the money-making end of the computer racket anyway." After work that day, at the office of Joey's lawyer, I signed papers and handed over a $5,000 personal check. I now owned 10 shares of currently worthless preferred stock in ServerComp, LLC.

Next day, I accepted an invitation to a party taking place this coming Saturday night, at a condo shared by Sharon and Amy, attractive young Admin Assistants whose cubicles abutted mine. Amy joked that the party was in celebration of the fact that she had managed to hang onto her job. From what she had told me on a previous occasion, Sharon's father was well-to-do, paying most of his daughter's living expenses, and that she herself paid merely a token rent to Sharon.
Later, I asked Tina to accompany Angie and me to the party, and she agreed. On Saturday afternoon, she asked me. How many women will be there?"

"I don't know - probably a lot," I replied.

"In that case, I'll dress nice."

One hour before the party: Angie was dressed in her heavy-metal uniform: feathered blonde hair, black spandex halter and pants, black spike heels. A leopard-print mini-dress clung to Tina's curves. I took one look at her and playfully suggested, "Amazon, I think we should skip the party." I tickled her ribcage and she slapped my hand away.

"Forget-choo, mister. I ain't spendin' a Saturday night all bored out of my skull." On the way to the party, she grumbled, "Ten bucks says I'll be the only Negro in the joint."

Sharon's twentieth-floor condo offered a superb view of the sinuous, 20-mile long Lake Washington and of the cold, monolithic Seattle skyline. As it turned out, I should have taken Tina's bet: At the party were Oscar and Merlin, two black men who worked in Xeno's Information Services Department. Unfortunately for Tina they were every bit as nerdy as white dudes such as I, and they constantly talked about computers, a tedious topic for party conversation. Merlin, who was a fellow ServerComp investor, was lucky enough to have retained his programmer job at Xeno. Tina, as the only black woman in attendance, tried flirting with Oscar and Merlin but quickly became disillusioned and wandered away from them. I then overheard snippets of Oscar lecturing to a circle of acquaintances: "System blah blah network..."

I was flabbergasted to see software mogul Milt Gaines arriving at the party. Later, when I asked Sharon how he happened to be here, she informed me that her father was an early investor of Gaines' Microno Software, and from that relationship she and Gaines had become friends.

Joey showed up at the party, and I said to him: "Joey, you're a hard one to get a hold of - "

"Hey, Big Guy - hang on, I'll be right back. I need to talk to somebody...Mister Gaines, what a pleasure..."

Joey struck up a long conversation with Gaines, and afterward he walked back to me to say: "Great news, Denny! I just sold Gaines a two-and-a-half percent share for 30 grand! Man, things are falling right into place now! The value of our stock's just about doubled - See? I ain't ripping you off, buddy!"

Soon, Gaines waved goodbye to Sharon and departed. I grabbed Angie by the shoulders. "Ange, I'm in business with Milt Gaines!"

"Who's he, Den?"

Tina walked over to us. "Was that that Gaines guy? He's one rich muthafucka."

"Yeah, and he just invested in our company. I just made a several thousand bucks – on paper, that is."

"I love you, Herc," Tina joked.

By 1am the party had loosened up. As Led Zeppelin shook the living room walls, Sharon and others were snorting and smoking cocaine in her bedroom. Sexy Sharon was wearing a short, pink negligee and a long, see-through robe. The fun was spoiled by a cop who called upstairs on the intercom and ordered us to turn the music down. Then most of the guests started going home.

By 2am only a handful of guests remained. Amorous Angie rubbed her spandex on me. "Angie, knock it off - you wanna start something?" I glanced into the bedroom, where Sharon and Merlin were kissing each other deeply while rolling around in bed.

Tina had been sleeping in a chair since she had drunk six Michelobs in the past four hours. I shook her shoulder and said, "Amazon, wake up. We oughta leave soon."

"Hercules, maybe I do love ya, ha-ha," she said with a giggle, and then nodded out again.

Angie's hands were roaming my chest. I hissed, "Sweetheart, I think you're inciting an orgy." Amy and her neighbor, Ed, were getting cozy, whispering and touching hands.

After grappling with Angie on the carpet for a few minutes, I realized that my lips and tongue were getting numb. Angie hadn't used cocaine in weeks (to my knowledge), so I didn't think it was such a big deal. I smacked my tingling lips and said, "Now I know why you're so fwisky - I mean, frisky"

"Aw, Den, it's a party."

"I think the party's over. It sure got quiet all of a sudden." Amy and Ed had disappeared, so I got up and looked into Sharon's room. "Good night - oops." She was now puffing on Merlin's rigid penis. Angie snuck up behind me and goosed my rear. "Wait til we get home, Angie, please!"

I finally roused Tina. Pulling her arms, I groused, "Get up - we're going home to bed! You're in no condition for an orgy, are you. Tsk-tsk - must be getting old." With Tina draped over my shoulder, I carried her to the car.

After getting home at 3am, a bleary-eyed Tina sat down on the sofa and proceeded to keel over into unconsciousness. Angie chortled, "Heh-heh – I gotcha all to myself tonight, Denny!"

Removing Tina's shoes, I said, "Now Angie, you know what happens when you're this loaded - you'll fall asleep in ten minutes."

Angie stuck out her little ass and slowly peeled down her tight, black spandex capris. "I wanna fuck," she purred like Lauren Bacall, her eyes half-lidded.

"Well, I'll race you to bed, then." She was virtually naked when she skipped past me.

Angie sprang into bed and, on all fours, sensuously swiveled her slim hips. "Not bad for 24, huh."

"Nice ass, baby," I hissed lecherously while dropping my pants.

Between kisses on my chest, she sighed, "I-love-you-I-love-you-O-Den-do-you-love-me?"

"Gawd, I love you Angie."

Now she was kissing my stomach and throttling my rod. "Den, do you love me as much as you love Tina?"
I sighed in exasperation. "You are stoned. Angie, you fell in love with her before I ever did, remember? I love you, sweetie. Now shut-up and keep...doing...that.

Copyright 2014 by K.D. Bishop 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Aphrodite Shuddered - Chapter 5

Chapter 5
Dirty Laundry

The headline on the front page of Saturday's Seattle Post-Impressionist:
Suspect's Uzi Linked to Shooting of Prince County Child
This being an election year, I presumed that the local sheriff breathed easier upon learning the results of the ballistics comparison of the dead suspect's Uzi against the spent slugs and shells recovered at the scene of the drive-by shooting. In the midst of the Grand Jury's police-corruption probe, the last thing the Sheriff's Office needed right now was another public relations crisis. However, in this particular instance of Black-Man-Killed-By-Cop, few citizens expressed concern over the elimination of a thug who put a little girl's life in jeopardy, even as the evidence proved that he had not fired shots at the deputies.

* * *
For the next three weeks, Angie and I stayed at less costly temporary lodgings, at a tolerable motel near downtown Seattle, far from the criminal iniquity of the Sea-Tac Airport area. I had asked Tina to join us there, but again she flatly refused, on this occasion citing the reason that she had no intention of - quoting her exactly - “sleepin' on crusty cum-stained motel sheets.” I could only assume that Hilton was very scrupulous in cleaning its linen.

While living at the motel, we devoted our time to hunting for a house or apartment to replace our trashed-out mobile home, to which I had made only a single furtive visit in the early morning in order to board-up the broken windows and grab personal belongings. Our funky old second-hand furniture could be hauled to the city dump, as far as I was concerned.

On Sunday afternoon, less than 48 hours after the dreadful excitement of the drive-by shooting(s), my work week commenced. I was one of the few employees working that day at the 15-story Xeno Building. After loading the company's Unisys mainframe with enough programs and computer tapes to keep it running virtually unattended for hours, I was able to catch-up with my phone messages. Aside from the usual pleas from computer users for technical support, there was a message was from a representative of MJ Recruiters, an employment agency (ostensibly), which had been trying to recruit me, on and off, for the past six years, ever since my military discharge from the United States Air Force in 1980. They had an uncanny knack of knowing whenever I was considering changing jobs or about to get laid-off. Seemingly not by coincidence, it wasn't going to be long before I found out whether my position at Xeno would be cut. If the past was any indication, getting contacted by those “headhunters” at this time made my upcoming unemployment almost a certainty.

MJ Recruiters must have been acting as a front for US intelligence agencies (ultimately for the CIA), since little else could explain their keen, long-term interest in me. There was nothing special about me, except that while working as a low-level analyst in Air Force Intelligence, I had been allowed access to extremely sensitive classified information, referred-to as “ESI”. Having once possessed a security clearance with ESI access made me a convenient, ready-made candidate for employment within the intelligence community. In spy agency jargon, I was considered “pre-vetted'. But because they didn't offer much more money than I could make on the outside, I had always politely rebuffed their persistent recruiting efforts. Furthermore, I had grown weary of the melodramatically secretive and somewhat depressing way of life which goes hand-in-hand with intelligence work. That's why I had decided to leave the Air Force in the first place, despite being offered a lucrative bonus to re-enlist.

* * *
After work that night, Angie and I managed to catch this report on the late local news on TV: “...The man killed by Prince County deputies last Friday has been identified as 22-year old Gary Matthew Edwards, who, according to officers in the sheriff's Gang Unit, had ties to a local street gang called the BWMs. Edwards had previous run-ins with the law...”

When an old police mug shot of Edwards appeared on-sceen, Angie let out a gasp. “Oh my God, I've seen him somewhere before, Den!”

“How could you? You're joking, right?” But for some reason, the longer I viewed the photo, the more familiar he appeared to me, as well.

Flapping her dainty hands in excitement, she said, “No, no, wait-a-minute, where did I see him at? Oh yeah, at the New Year's party at A.J.'s apartment! Everybody there called him 'G'.”

I exhaled heavily. “Well, that only confirms what I already suspected.” Having said that, it suddenly struck me: “G” was one of the two men I had seen balling Marta and the other young chicks to a fare-thee-well on the video tape.

Before going at work on Monday, I called Detective Jameson from a pay phone. I had already decided against accusing him of having an information leak in his office. Because if that happened to be true, there was no sense in making wild accusations and possibly face retribution from corrupt cops. Now that we had moved away, and with Edwards dead and A.J. on the run, I would leave bad-enough alone. So rather than shooting my mouth off, I merely gave Jameson new information pertaining to the sex video: that Gary Matthew Edwards was one of the three men in the video. Jameson replied, “Really? The same Edwards those deputies just put on a slab? Hang-on a second, Denny.” He then punched-up Edwards' mug shot onto his computer screen. “I'll be damned, it sure looks like him. I'll have to take another look at that tape.”

“On the news they reported that Edwards was in the BWMs, and I know that Davis is, so maybe the other guy on the tape is too.”

He wasn't overly impressed by my powers of inductive reasoning : “It's a lead, at any rate.” Then he abruptly shifted gears, as if to catch me with my guard down: “Denny, why didn't you tell me that you witnessed that drive-by shooting of the kid? I'm looking at the incident report right now, which includes your field interview with Sergeant Kronwall of the Gang Unit. Kronwall writes, 'Witness SMITH, DENTON T advised that he believed he was targeted by perp, possible suspect DAVIS, ANTHONY J and/or unknown BWM gang associates'.” Then Jameson admonished, “This is a big county, Denny, and we can't be everywhere simultaneously. Had you told me right away, Davis might be behind bars right now.” And if I had told him right away, I could have received police protection, thus sparing myself from Davis' subsequent attempt on my life, I might have added - but didn't.

Instead I hesitantly said, “Well, I wasn't sure if I could trust you guys anymore, to be honest. I never had to worry about fuckers shooting at me until I gave you that sex tape.”

Skeptically - or so it sounded to me - he replied, “Next thing you'll be telling me is that we got a BWM spy working in this office.”

“Hey, you didn't hear that from me. Listen, if the County Prosecutor wants me to testify against Davis someday, I have no problem with that. But until then, I'm keeping my mouth zipped.”

* * *
April 3, 1986
The day after Angie and I had moved into our new apartment, the law finally caught-up with Davis. His arrest set in motion a chain of events which would eventually expose a criminal network far more extensive than I could imagine at the time.

Here's the gist of the story of his arrest and the immediate aftermath: In the month since I had last spoken to Jameson, the sheriff's Vice Squad, in conjunction with the Gang Unit, obtained court orders authorizing the monitoring of the home phones of Davis' associates in the BWM gang. After two weeks of electronic and physical surveillance, the cops traced him to a BWM stash-house located in a quiet, upscale suburban neighborhood. In addition to collaring Davis and two of his gang cohorts, the Sheriff's Office had seized several kilos of a new type of smoke-able cocaine called “crack”, a kilo of pure China White heroin and a large amount of cash. But what garnered the most media attention was what had been discovered in a bedroom and in the garage. In one bedroom they had come across two underage Asian females, Chinese citizens who had been smuggled into the US, probably hidden inside shipping containers . And inside the attached garage was what was alleged to be a makeshift video studio. As a result, dozens of video tapes were also seized, to be closely examined for suspected child porn content. Davis, who was considered a high flight-risk, had been denied bail and would remain in Prince County Jail indefinitely.

That night, during a brief press conference which was broadcast live on local TV, beleaguered Sheriff Pat Nuttingham beamed with pride as he laid-out in sordid detail the allegations which I have just described. By the time he was finished, his arms must have gotten sore from patting himself on the back. 

Copyright 2014 by K.D. Bishop