Reads: 103

Kay was determined to find a clue about Chip's sudden wealth. Some of their under-thirty friends living in Silicon Valley made more but it seemed out of character for Chip. She knew the siren song of Technology captivated Chip and she didn't want him to be taken advantage of. Kay knew dealing with advanced technology was dangerous. Her parents warned her to be cautious but never gave an indication of why they felt that way.

Chip had an RFID chip implanted in his index finger to open the three car garage, which he hardly needed with only two vehicles.

"This is where I park the Orion," Chip said.

"Chip, am I supposed to be impressed by your choice of vehicles?" Kay asked.

"It's a lease and the company pays for it but feel free to be impressed. I kept my sedan just in case;"

They continued towards the rear door. Presumably taking the back route so he could show off his swimming pool, which was a one- season amenity in Leland. Kay thought that the house being situated on the lake was enough water, but she supposed the pool was already with the house.

There were books, knickknacks and the usual clutter Chips home. It differed from Kay's home in that there was little dust. He could probably afford a cleaning service. A television screen dominated one wall with a few leather recliners for viewing and a wet bar nearby. It was stocked with top shelf liquors. If it were her house, Kay wouldn't bother with Captiva and throw ragers instead. The kitchen featured updated appliances. A readout of the contents in the refrigerator was displayed and it seemed to contain mostly cartridges for the 3-D food printer. Kay assumed Chip had most of his meals delivered by Food Bee, like most bachelors. Pretty much anything could be delivered hot or cold within minutes from the local hive – cute name for the delivery service’s district kitchen

"There's not a lot going on in here, Chip. Where do you get your work done?" Kay asked. Dropping an obvious hint to be shown the office. It was a hint meant for Jade to call her cell so she could answer the call and be left in the office alone.

"Let's chill here for a bit before we head to my office. Don't want to lose the buzz we got at Captiva." Chip walked towards the wet bar, which was illuminated from behind, making the bottles of premium liquor look irresistible.

Will was impressed. "Shit, dude. Why'd we bother going out when you have this sick bar. I'd become an alcoholic within a week if I had this going on," he joked.

"I'm not Bryce but I know how to mix a pretty good cocktail. Pick your poison," Chip said.

Kay was more interested in getting to Chip's office, but she couldn't resist. "Let's see how truly stocked your bar is. I'll have a Moscow Mule."

Chip pulled out a copper mug, and Kay was immediately impressed. Who the hell keeps one of those on hand? He filled it with small cubed ice. Chip smoothly poured a couple of ounces of vodka followed by lime juice. He stirred the concoction and covered it with ginger beer. A lime wheel was placed on the lip of the cup. "Enjoy Kay," Chip said as he proudly handed her the cocktail.

Chip was equally as agile fixing a Negroni for Will and a Sea Breeze for Jade. Each one made with fine spirts in the appropriate glasses. Finally, he poured himself a very dry martini with two olives and an onion. There was no need for the humongous television in the room because it would mean taking your eyes off the spectacular view.

"The wall of windows takes advantage of the view. Keeping the landscape manicured must be a fulltime job; you could bounce a quarter off that lawn," Jade gushed.

"The lighting isn't too obvious or garish – just enough," Kay pointed out.

"Yeah, I love it and it self-adjusts so I never have to worry about it." Chip reclined on the butter-soft leather couch.

"I'd be both an alcoholic and a couch potato if I lived here. I wouldn't be able to remove myself in order to get any work done," Will said.

“My office is the best part of my house. It's my cockpit, command center and a comfortable space. A twelve-hour day passes by like nothing. I have a couch in there that rocks and pulls out to a bed, which I've slept on after a long day."

"No offense, Chip, but it doesn't sound like you have much of a life outside of work." Kay was being brutally honest. A trait she was always trying to tone down.

"No offense taken. I make a minimum of $15K per month and I only see that increasing. There aren't many people I know who wouldn't exchange that amount of cash for hard work," Chip said with a defensive tone. "There are plenty of people raking in more cash in Silicon Valley but someday they'll hit a ceiling. I don't foresee that happening for me."

Kay decided to ask him outright. "What it is you do for this Jan Zabar?"

Chip drew his pinched fingers across his lips. "My lips are sealed, Kay. Like most jobs these days, I've signed an ironclad non-disclosure agreement." Chip had several drinks and despite his buzz, he towed the company line. "Don't look at me like that Jade – I'm not trafficking illegal drugs."

"Well, Chip, if that were the case I'd ask for samples," Jade joked and the four of them moved up to the office.

 

An entire wall of the office was filled with screens. They were all black except for timestamps in the upper left corners. Behind Chip's back, Kay managed to snap a few shots. Most of the time zones covered Eastern Europe – if Kay was correct. She knew Chip's career dealt with international clients, but she needed to know more. A Wi-Fi coffee maker sat on a side table and he had a smart-elliptical under his desk. A video that was connected to his doorbell was mounted on his wall.  Chip's chair alone was worth more than Kay's car and the chrome details were perfectly polished. The shelves were typical and scattered with a dozen or so folders, many unlabeled. It wasn't going to be easy figuring out what mattered and what didn't. Her time alone in the office was limited. She bumped into Jade and whispered in her ear. "Call my phone now."

"This is beyond. It had better be worth it – I feel like I'm in a Mission Impossible movie."

Will noticed the ladies sharing secrets. "What are the two of you plotting? Does it involve Chip and me?"

"I know what you're thinking. We're not planning an orgy – put on a pair of VR goggles if that's what you're looking for," Jade joked.

Chip's pocket buzzed because someone was at the front door. It was Bryce and she was a little drunk but sober enough to have found her way to Chip's house. "Hey Bryce. We're upstairs to the left. Just follow our voices."

"Don't mind me. I was having a bad case of FOMO and Captiva was boring after you guys left," Bryce said as she pulled Kay aside and whispered in her ear. "Jade called me on the down lo. She didn't like the idea of spying on Chip and begged me to do the dirty work, which I have no problem with. I'll call instead of Jade and let her focus on Chip's dick.

"This is getting more complicated than it has to be." Kay sighed. "Whatever."

"Next, I'll show you where the magic happens. My master is next door, which offers maximum privacy from every other room in the house. It has blackout curtains and it's soundproof. The walk-in closet is a safe room – not like I would ever need one. Mr. Zabar insisted I have one and who was I to argue with the man signing my checks."

Bryce covertly dialed Kay's phone, which she answered. "Go ahead, guys. I'll catch up with you in a minute. It's my mother and I have to take this."

"You're missing out, Kay. My bedroom is sick," Chip said as he led the others out.

 Kay looked through the papers on Chip's desk and learned something she never knew about Chip; he was a prolific doodler. She quickly realized that any secrets were locked in his computer, which would be impossible to break into. Under a lifestyle magazine for billionaires, which was fantasy reading for Chip, Kay found his NDA. Instead of absconding the document, she pulled out her Plume and snapped pictures. She skipped the pages that were filled with legal jargon.

 "Bryce, it's me. Pretend it's your sister or someone," Kay said in a low voice. "I need your help."

"What the fuck – literally, what the fuck are you doing Sherlock?" Bryce, whispered.

"Get in here. Say you're checking on me

Kay lingered in the chair for a moment after she found the massage feature. Bryce jabbed her in the arm to pull her out of her trance.

"I am not cut out for corporate espionage. Thanks, Bryce," Kay said as she wiped the sweat from her brow with her sleeve.

Bryce shook her head. "For your information, I don't have a sister. I said my dog sitter was calling."

"Do you have a dog?"

"No, but it sounded plausible. Did you get what you needed? Is Chip secretly trying to take over the world?"

"I don't think Chip is but who knows about the shadowy company he's working for."

The tour ended and instead of sticking around while Chip showed off his new-found wealth, Kay had Will take her home with a splitting headache.

***

"Something's up, Kay; are you going to tell me why your acting bizarre?" Will asked as he started to slip into the car with Kay.

They ended up calling a car hailing service because a DV wasn't available. The driver wasn't chatty which was good for Kay because she wasn't in the mood for small talk

"Not tonight, Will and I'm not acting bizarre. I should have skipped going to Chip’s, but I was curious about his house. Jade's a good friend and I wanted to make sure everything's cool. Chip's new job with Plushenko is a cause for concern. Something isn't kosher about the whole thing I'll call you after my conference call."

The oddly quiet driver didn't know how to follow directions, which was abnormal because a live map was on his dash. Perhaps Kay was being paranoid, but she was pretty sure the driver was listening to their conversation.

Kay had no headache and she wasn't going right to bed. She was going to look at what type of contract Chip signed for Plushenko Devices. Kay pressed her thumb against the entry pad and walked into her two-bedroom condo that seemed tiny and archaic having seen Chip's house. The light's blinked on as she passed through the corridor.

"Tracey, wake tomorrow at 5:30am. Soothing music – guitar."

"Welcome home Kay. You will wake to soothing music guitar at 5:30. Conference call 8am." Tracey said.

"Tracey, laundry up." Kay's favorite part of her condo was the laundry service which washed, dried, ironed and folded her clothes. It came at an expense, but she remembered her mother bitching about laundry for years. Having the system in her condo unit ready to be activated was too good to pass up. It was one of the few ways she didn't want to be like her mother. “Tracey, reminder to call Mom. Tracey, Off good night.” The Chip mystery would have to wait for the morning.

Thoughts of her mother, Patsy Wheatly and the years spent in the white colonial on the outside of Leland, were all scrolling through her mind. Life at home with her parents wasn't exactly typical but it's what she knew. Many housewives complained about the tedium of cleaning, cooking and other chores. Not Kay's mom; she often said that there were some things more important than a clean house. Her father complained about the amount of time Patsy spent on the computer but not too much. Kay's mother was strong-headed and there was no way he was going to change her habits. She never explained exactly what she was working on and eventually Kay and Ed just accepted it as normal, they learned to live in an untidy home.

Kay pulled back her down comforter and the lights dimmed. Her head hit the pillow but unlike most nights, she couldn't fall asleep.

 Kay's mind was also on overload with thoughts of Chip Mantooth and her morning conference call swirling through her head. Her Plume sat on her nightstand and she knew the contract between Chip and his employer was on there. Screw it, she thought. Kay stepped into her slippers and padded to the kitchen as the lights blinked on. Tracey, coffee. The sound of coffee brewing had a way of waking Kay up before the caffeine had a chance to do its magic. It was 2am but like a dog with a bone, Kay was on a mission to figure out what the hell was happening with Chip and Plushenko Devices.

Kay downloaded the pictures to her personal laptop, where ViaTech had no access. If they tried to pry into her personal life, they would find encrypted information only. Kay kept her private laptop in a lockbox and if there was ever a fire, earthquake or tornado – it would be the only thing she took.

 I am Jan Zabar, Head of Human Resources for Plushenko Devices, Inc. and it is my pleasure to present you with a job offer that is a once in a lifetime opportunity. No prior experience is necessary. I've looked into your background and reviewed your qualifications and you meet every requirement. This position is part-time, although compensation equals two full-time positions elsewhere. You can work from anywhere and hours can be established at your discretion.

Kay was floored and knew she was correct in thinking something wasn't right. First, Chip lied. He wasn't working long hours. “Too Good to be True” was an old adage but in this case, it fit perfectly. Chip thought he had a dream job, but it was clear, Jan Zabar had himself a chump. Someone who was doing something for him that was worth 15K/month.

Kay's next step was to read further and figure out what exactly Chip was doing for Plushenko. Was it legal?


Submitted: May 22, 2019

© Copyright 2022 kristie leonard. All rights reserved.

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