Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Chapter 18: What If You're Over My Sh*t?

THE OFFICE OF BREANNE LANG
TO: Marc Isles
FROM: Breanne Lang
SUBJECT: CONFIDENTIAL

Marc,
Your wife is a bitch. I'm forwarding you this exposé, written by my undisclosed source. This is not out of courtesy to Rachel, but out of courtesy to you. I will not be publishing this exposé. I don't want to be involved in this, any longer.
Breanne Lang
Editor, Views Magazine
            
Marc, The Man
            This all happened last year:
Karla asked me to drive her to Marc's office in San Francisco. She had been married to Quan at this point for four years and hadn't spoken to Marc since he married Rachel. But Quan was sent to prison on a drug charge, and Karla was feeling all alone. Do you know what happens when you feel alone? You begin to reminisce about the past. Karla and Quan have no children, and so, when he was sent to the pen, she had nothing but time on her hands.
             Marc makes frequent trips back to Elysian Fields. He’s always been loyal to his old stomping grounds. He loves Dodge Challengers. He likes them because they have that ‘70s look that everyone in Cali loves, but there’s a modern edge to it. Marc’s Challenger is black and shiny, fast and clean. He rides back home in the latest version, every year, and parks right outside his parents’ house. When he steps out of it, he’s greeted by smiling faces, hugs, and back slaps. Marc’s the man. If Karla were in the vicinity, he’d give her a small smile and head nod, before moving along. No hug. No small talk. After all those years, Marc doesn’t even have time to say hi to Karla.
 Karla was pining for him one night. It was spring in California, and all the guys were on their parents' front lawn lifting weights, preparing for the summer. All the women were gathered on front porches, talking about the latest weight loss teas endorsed by the latest Instagram star. I guess Karla sat there that night and got depressed. She wouldn't have a man this summer. She wouldn't need weight loss teas. Why had she chosen to marry a dope boy? Especially when rumor had it that he was cheating on her. But all men cheat, right? So that's not a big deal. But Marc doesn't cheat. There had never been a rumor about him being with another woman. In fact, the joke around Elysian Fields was that his nose was wide-open for Rachel. How good would it feel to be married to someone good-looking, well-off, and faithful, who drives a nice car?
 Karla came to me in secret. She asked if I would drive her to San Francisco. She didn't trust anyone. She didn't have the money to fly. She'd pay me twenty dollars for gas money. She begged me. I felt terrible for her. And so, I took her.
 Marc's IT company, Dumbbell, is housed in a big building, with other tech firms. His firm occupies the top floor. The address is public knowledge, and so, Karla looked it up. It was late when we arrived, but we know he'd be there. Everyone knew that Marc lived in those offices. Karla took a chance on going up there, that night, and finding him there. But, if she didn’t, she’d pay for us to stay in a cheap hotel so that we could go back to Marc’s office the next morning. That night, we made it to the front lobby.
 Security wasn't at his post. Karla thought this was fate. We slid through the metal detectors and went straight to the elevator. Why did I accompany her? Because I had heard of the last time she came to see Marc in San Francisco and how Rachel beat her ass. I wanted to make sure Karla didn't have another incident like that. Say what you will, Karla is cool. She's sweet. She talks with a ‘proper' voice. She's always smiling. Yeah, she looks like the rest of the girls in the hood, but she doesn't act like it. She's prissy. She isn't a fighter. She's the kind of woman that would be perfect for a guy like Marc. Sure, she isn't cultivated, but she's got it in her to be. She always aspired to live the kind of life Marc offers Rachel. She wants to be the one who wears the furs, the diamond rock and drives the Benz. Unlike Rachel, Karla is the kind of girl that would be the wife of a baller gracefully. She'd be beyond reproach. She'd lend money out until Marc told her to knock it off. She'd let the kids run up to her and give her hugs, and not worry about their sticky fingers. Karla was meant to be Marc's wife.
 We made it Marc's floor, and the elevators slid opened. It looks like the future in Marc's offices. It seems like Marc works at a space station on Jupiter. Everything's dark, silver and glass. There's computer hardware that I've never seen the likes of, stationed in an organized mess. An average person wouldn't want to touch it, lest an alarm goes off or a system shuts down, causing the universe to stop working. The windows are floor-to-ceiling and showcase San Francisco at its postcard picture best: the Golden Gate Bridge, the water, the lights, and more lights, and more lights. You walk into Marc's office building, and you feel immortal. You are not from Planet Earth. You know things that mere mortals can't even fathom. The solar system runs because of you.
Karla and I just stood there for a moment. This belongs to Marc?
We heard a noise. Karla and I began looking for a place to hide. I noticed a doorway to our left. I pulled her along and rushed to it. We pressed our backs against the door. But I peeked out and saw that it was Marc. He was looking at his cellphone. He was dressed in sweats and a tee. It was after-hours, he wasn't worried about looking professional. There was a vanity to his walk. He's a built guy—not too built so that he looks like a gym head—but built enough to let us all know that he's from a place where weightlifting on your front lawn is entirely normal. The guy's got broad shoulders and a solid chest. Plus he's tall. I can see why Karla's still infatuated with him.
Still looking at his cellphone, Marc opened a door, blasting a ray of light into the hallway. Karla and I pressed our backs firmly against the door again. The blast of light then became a sliver. Karla then tapped me on the arm and put a finger over her mouth, signaling me to shh… She pointed down the hall to the sliver of light.
Let's walk to that door.
We walked towards it slowly. This had to be Marc’s office. We made it to the door and then peeked in. It was a conference room filled with a long glass desk.
The guys bounced out of their chairs, on instinct, as Marc makes his way to an empty seat. Dressed down to look more Banana Republic, than Tom Ford right now, Marc’s air, his presence, probably made them feel like any man would feel when the president walks in. Or a king.
Marc looked up from his cellphone.
             “Sit,” Marc said as he found a seat at the glass conference table. “And stop doing that.”
             “No problem,” all the guys seemed to say in unison.    
“Let me know what you need me to do,” I heard a man say. Trev? Was that Marc’s brother Trev? I couldn’t see his face, but I know his voice. What was Trev doing here?
Trev’s the hood guy; Marc's the polished one. Trev's the one who's covered in oil because he's good at fixing cars and owns a string of tire shops. But we all know these are a front. He's pretending to be out of the drug game. Trev's men say that there's a Cuban guy who bought him out. This Cuban, nicked named Cube, lives in Cuba. He had Trev appoint ‘generals' to watch over Elysian Fields. They're the guys Cube deals with. At least that's the word on the street. It's a load of bull. Trev lives in Calabasas with his wife, Barbie. Rumor has it, they live in a twelve-room mansion, with their three kids. Barbie drives a Porsche truck, wears furs every winter, and always looks photo-op ready on any given day. All of this from marrying a tire shop owner? I don't think so.
I was confident Barbie came to San Francisco with Trev because he never travels without her; she doesn't allow it. Too many women out there for her and Trev is a lot like Marc: they both bow to their women because their father bowed to their mom. Suckers for love is what some guys call the three of them. Barbie and Rachel keep Trev and Marc on a short leash, as Trev and Marc's mother kept their father on one.
I was certain, that night, Trev and Marc would leave together after this meeting and meet up with their wives. Trev and Barbie would have brought along their live-in nanny to watch their children. Barbie’s a hood-classy chick who’s never without her children and nanny at least five feet behind her.
The streets are dangerous, and revenge is real.
After this meeting tonight, Marc, Trev, and Barbie would pretend like nothing is wrong. The three of them do this because of Rachel. If Rachel knew what was really happening in Marc’s life, she’d leave him. Again. The first time she left him for one whole month left a bad taste in his mouth. A bloody taste. She left him and was a no-show for one month. He hired someone to locate her. I bet Rachel doesn’t know that. Can you imagine?
That month, after Karla showed up on Marc’s doorstep, after hearing that he and Rachel were set to marry, Rachel just disappeared. It was the summer, she wasn’t teaching, and she just couldn’t be found. As soon as rumors start going around that Marc may be seeing Karla, Rachel magically appears. You know why? Because she had been there all along. She’s that good. Marc is hers. When she showed up, Marc couldn’t have been happier. Rachel’s the woman of his dreams. With her, he’s living the life of his dreams.
Dark liquor, limo rides, midnight flights, and hush-hush conversations surround them.  They move in secret. They live in secret. They are the urban legends of L.A. People wonder, imagine, what they're up to in San Francisco. 
Rachel helps Marc get business. She calls in her contacts, courtesy of her father, and gets Marc contracts to produce software for their companies. What Rachel doesn’t know is that these companies are a cover-up; they’re something to put on Marc’s tax forms, come April 15, to explain how he has an income. The truth is that Marc and Rachel's income comes from a different source altogether. 
But Rachel doesn’t know this.
The guys who work for Marc don’t know this.
“What have we come up with? What do they want?” Marc asks. Everyone starts talking at once. Marc looks around the table at the same time fingers begin typing onto laptop keyboards. Barbells. That’s the name of their laptops. They were all created by Marc: the hardware, the software, everything. If you work at Marc's company, you must use his equipment. Barbells have a sleek look, with curved edges, and are the color of gunmetal. The government grade software, Dumbbell, was coded straight from Marc’s brain. The CIA. The Feds. The President. The President’s men. Marc. Marc’s employees. Those are the only people who use Barbells and Dumbbells, both the computers and the software. Exclusively. Those are the only people allowed to use them. Having Dumbbell’s software in the hands of us regular people would prove dangerous to the U.S. government. I wonder how the government would feel if they knew that there was another person who uses Dumbbell, and that person is Trev. Trev uses the software to safeguard his drug records. Don’t ask me how I know this.
             That night, the guys continued to rattle off their thoughts about the breach that almost happened in Dumbbell’s software.
             “Easy,” Marc said, his voice relaxed. All conversation ceased. He looked around the table. “Barry,” he pointed to Barry, with his full red beard and torn hoodie on.
             “They’re trying to tap into Rachel’s operating system,” Barry says as he holds up his laptop. “And I’ve got the proof. They’re trying to blast into Rachel’s operating system, but they can’t get past Dumbbell's invisible wall,” he says, referring to the hack-proof software that Marc created. “And to tell you the truth, they almost did. We've gotta come up with another software, something more solid.” Marc appeared to be looking at someone. I assumed it was Trev. If someone can penetrate Dumbbell's software, Trev's business is vulnerable. But here's the question, why were these hackers trying to break into Rachel’s operating system? Why Rachel? Why did they choose Rachel? Rachel had nothing to do with L.A. life at that point. She lived in San Francisco and only came back to L.A. to visit her best friend, Vivian. What was going on in Rachel's life to make someone attempt to attack her operating system? Who was Rachel hanging around with in L.A. that Marc knew nothing about?
             I was sure that Trev was looking at Marc, speaking to him through the silence, It’s the Lock family. Even I knew it was them. The Isles and Lock family hate each other. Who else would it be? And who in the Lock family was becoming interested in Rachel?
Silence.
Let me be the first to tell you, Marc’s company isn’t a software company. It’s a company that makes software. Marc’s company is actually an extension of his brother’s business. Contacts, money, portfolios, rosters… all information too sensitive to keep on paper and be found by the feds. This is information you store in an airtight database that’s accessible by the creator of this database only. Marc’s the man who made Trev’s database for the dope trade. Marc selling a version of this software to the federal government was his way of not needing to depend on Trev’s dope business to give him a standard of living that he and Rachel want.
I don't care what anyone says, that night, Marc got scared. For so long, he had been able to keep Rachel and his business separate, and now the tide was turning. If his software was infiltrated and Marc's role in his brother's business was revealed, Rachel would leave him. She wants a respected husband with a respectable business. And so Marc had to create software that was airtight for Rachel’s sake.
That night, everyone looked at Marc. He let his eyes drift off. We all waited.
And waited.
And waited.
He looked up.
“I need more information,” he says as he stood up.
“But—” Barry says, attempting to defend himself.
“Be smart,” Marc told a room that was probably filled with Stanford, Harvard and MIT graduates. “Come to me with facts. Indisputable. Don’t jump the gun here, take your time with it.” He stood up. “Call me by six tomorrow morning,” he said with his back to them. Everyone started clanking their fingers against their laptops. Karla and I panicked. I spotted an open door, ten feet away. I grabbed hold of her and dragged her to it. We hid.
And then we left.
But the nerds couldn’t come up with an update for Dumbbell that prevented hacking. They couldn’t come up with software that would prevent Rachel from finding out about Marc and leaving him. So, this is why Marc went to Seattle. He needed to create the software himself.
But this is the thing: Marc was never in Seattle.




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