Chapter 14

Brian left his apartment around 9. He jumped on the subway and got off in Soho. He exited the subway station and pulled his Yankees cap out of his backpack. He rounded the corner and turned immediately into a local electronics store. Walking in, he didn’t have to go too far into the store to find what he wanted. He picked up an off-brand Android smartphone and walked over to the cashier, keeping his head down to avoid the camera he knew was in each corner.

“Good morning, sir,” said the older Indian gentleman behind the counter. “Will that be all? Do you need additional batteries or another charger? I have some great Bluetooth on sale,” he continued with a smile.

“Oh, no, thanks,” Brian said. “I’m all set.”   He pulled out four twenties and handed them to the Indian man.

“Ah, thank you,” he said opening the register and pulling out some change and a few dollars. He offered a bag and Brian took it, putting the phone into it.

Brian looked him briefly in the eyes and said, “Thanks.”  Then he turned to the door and walked out, again keeping his head down.

He walked up the street for another couple of blocks. Then, sat down on a small wall, next to an office building. He reached into the bag and pulled out the phone. He pulled a small pocket knife out of his pocket, opened it and sliced open the plastic packaging. He pulled out the phone and charger, putting them on his lap, while he put the plastic packaging back into the bag and tossed the bag into a trash can. Then, he pulled out his wallet and retrieved the SIM. He opened the battery compartment for the phone and pulled out the SIM card, replacing it with the one from his wallet. He put the new SIM into the Post-it and put it in his wallet, then put his wallet back into his pocket. He reached into his backpack and pulled out a battery. He snapped it into the phone, putting the new, likely uncharged, battery into his backpack. Then he snapped the cover back on the phone and turned it on. The phone asked if it was new or if it would be used with an existing user account. Brian chose the existing user option and was then prompted for a login. He entered “nomadrocketman” and a password, then the phone began to configure itself with all of his settings. After a minute or so, the phone was ready to use.

He pocketed the phone and pulled out his personal phone, unlocking it and loading the phone app. He tapped it and put it to his ear.

“Yo Sam, what’s up?” he said.

“So, man, not much. It’s kind of early so I’m still getting up,” Sam replied groggily.

“Yeah, cool. Sorry to wake you.  Did you talk to Steve?” Brian asked.

“Oh yeah, man. He said he’d love the challenge,” Sam replied.

“Uh huh, fantastic!” Brian said excitedly.

“When do you want to meet with him?” Sam asked.

“Let’s do it today. Yeah?” Brian replied.

“Oh man, I don’t know. What time?” Sam asked.

“What about lunch?” Brian replied.

“Oh man, I really have a bunch of stuff to do today,” Sam replied.

“I’ll buy. Come on, make it happen,” Brian replied.  “Oh, and I have your money for your startup,” he added to further encourage Sam.

“Ok, ok, lemme see what I can do,” Sam replied hesitantly.

“Great. See you at Custom House, our you wanna meet in town somewhere?” Brian asked.

“Um, well, if you’re buying…” he replied.  “Plus, I gotta see what Steve’s schedule is, so… let me text you. Probably in town.”

“Yeah, ok, just let me know,” Brian replied. “Thanks a lot. Talk to you later.”

He tapped the phone to hang up. “That’ll give me time to stop by my storage unit, provided it’s not swarming with cops,” he thought.

He found the next subway and headed back to Brooklyn. Arriving at his stop, he popped out of the subway and felt the new phone vibrate and sound a quick alarm.

“Oh hell, forgot to turn that off,” he thought. He reached into his pocket and pulled out the phone. He recognized the number and the text said, “Can’t meet tonight. Package still in transit. Meet tomorrow”

Brian thought, “Well, that’s a drag. One more day…”

He tapped into the phone settings and turned off the audible alarm. Then, he pocketed the phone and pulled out his personal phone and turned it off, then put it back into his pocket.  Reaching into the backpack, he pulled out a pair of Aviator sunglasses and put them on. He walked another two blocks and stopped, pulled out the new phone and looked at it. Not that he cared what was on it, but he wanted to look casual as he stopped around the corner from his storage building. He then slowly and carefully looked up and around. No one was standing around looking like they didn’t belong and there were no cars hanging around with guys sitting in them. He looked back at the phone and then casually glanced again. “Nope, no scary looking vans or SUVs either,” he thought. He kept his phone out and started walking toward the building. As he got closer, he could see no one but the usual security guy, Clyde, who was normally present this time of day.

Brian approached the door and it slid open. He walked in and gave Clyde his usual wave. “What’s up, Clyde?” Brian asked.

“Hey g’mornin,'” he replied. “You doin’ okay, man?”

“Yeah, sure. What’s new? This place getting busy, yet?” Brian asked, fishing for a little info.

“Oh yeah, not much,” he replied. “Naw, we still got lots of empty spaces. Tell yo friends cause they still givin’ discounts.”

“Yeah, cool, I will,” Brian replied as he continued into the storage area.

As he walked back into the facility he thought, “It doesn’t sound like there have been any cops here.  Susan must have found me at the other one. That’s very good since the bank is here.”

He arrived at his unit as he pulled the key from the backpack. He unlocked the padlock and opened the sliding door. Walking in, he opened a cardboard box and moved the packing paper aside where he found his duffle bag. He unzipped it to find the bundles of cash. He counted out 22 grand. He took a sheet of the packing paper and wrapped the cash in it, then put it into his backpack, zipped the duffle and replaced the paper, then closed the box. He stepped out, but heard voices and stepped back in. He listened for a moment as a man and woman spoke quietly while walking toward his unit. He was preparing to pretend as if he was casually looking for something while also preparing for a confrontation when it sounded as if they took a turn down the hallway he had passed on the way to his unit. He peeked around the corner to confirm, then stepped out, closed the unit and closed the padlock. He put his shades back on and headed for the front door. 

As he passed Clyde, he saw that he was on his mobile phone, mumbling something quietly, probably to his wife, from what Brian could overhear. Brian waved as he walked out, keeping his head down for the cameras. He took a quick look around as he walked out. Still nothing unusual.

He retraced his steps back to the subway to head back to Soho, where Sam was likely to want to meet. Plus he had to meet Jose, a guy who specialized in clean money. Before he headed down into the subway, he pulled out his personal phone and turned it back on. He waited a moment while it powered up and reconnected to the world. He unlocked the phone and tapped the messages app. Nothing. He checked the phone app for a voicemail. Nothing. Down into the subway he went.

He emerged at the corner of Ninth and Fourteenth.  Checking his phone screen again, he didn’t see anything new. He unlocked the phone anyway and checked his email. But he didn’t see anything interesting, so he pocketed the phone.

He decided to camp out for a while at Jack’s Stir Brew Coffee, a coffee shop which typically had consistently good coffee. He walked in and asked for a cup of the stir brew. He paid and took the coffee over to a table in the back. He pulled a tablet out of his backpack and sat down. Turning on the tablet, the wifi automatically connected, since he often sipped coffee here. He acknowledged a pop-up ad and opened the web browser.

While he waited, he thought he might do a little research about the best way to acquire or create packaged meals. He estimated that he would need around 500 days worth for his trip, which gave him plenty of contingency. Unfortunately, it looked as if he would need to acquire these, as he did not have the technology to create them. Nor did he want to acquire the technology to create them, or have the resources to create the raw material.  So, next, he would look to purchase them. It looked like the options there were plentiful, from amazon.com to the U.S. military.   Brian thought, “man, I’m gonna need to get a box or two of these if I’m going to live on them for 500 days. The reviews all say they’ll taste like shit.”

He’d have to wait to place the order because his phone went off. It was a text from Sam. It read “Steve is on for 11:30 at Uncle Teds Chinese”

Brian tapped the reply button and responded, “See you then and there”

Since he had some time, he finished his coffee, put the tablet into its case, then into the backpack. He carried his cup over to the counter, gave a wave to the barista, who was waiting on another customer, then walked out.

He walked around the corner and down 8th, planning to meet Jose at Washington Square Park. He didn’t get to the park before he encountered Uncle Sam’s Military Supply. “Hmm,” he thought. “Wonder if they have MREs?”

He cut across the street and walked in. “Wow,” he thought, “this place is packed full of army stuff.” He walked over to the counter where he was greeted by an older guy with glasses and grey hair.

“Hey buddy,” he said with a smile, “whatcha lookin’ for?”

Brian smiled, “Hi, yeah, do you guys carry MREs, meals ready to eat?”

“Yeah, I know what MREs are,” he replied. “Sure, we got ‘em, back here.” He walked from behind the counter, deeper into the huge store. As he walked he asked, “So, how much do you need. They last for a long time, so we don’t keep too many on hand, but I can order ’em for you.”

“Oh, I don’t need much,” Brian replied. “I really just want to try some before I buy a lot of them.”

“Yeah, that’s a good idea,” the guy replied. “They’re not bad, but they’re definitely not for everybody. You going on a long hike or something.”

“Yeah, long trip,” Brian replied.

“Well, here ya go,” the guy said, turning pointing out a small display, with some plain brown boxes underneath, marked in small fine print, with some product codes including partial words like “chick”, “beef”, “turk” and “veg” on the corners.

“Ok,” Brian said. “Looks like about four or six varieties?”

“Yep,” said the guy. “Also, if you’re going to be near water, you might want to consider some light fishing gear. You’d have to cook, but it would help you with some variety and fresh protein.”

“No, thanks,” he replied. “I won’t have access to fish. I’ll just try three of each of these.”

“Ok, man,” he replied, “you got it.” He grabbed a small box and put three of each variety inside. “I’ll check you out up front unless there’s something else you need, tent, rope, tools?”

“No, thanks,” Brian replied. “That’ll do it for now.”

“How about a backpack?” the man asked. “That backpack’s not going to do you much good on a  long trip.”

“Oh, yeah, I know,” Brian said. “I’m not using this.”  Brian thought for a second and remembered that his next stop required another bag. “What about a small duffle. Do you have those?”

“Of course, my friend,” replied the man. “How small? Something like that?” he said, pointing across the store to a stack in a variety of colors.

Brian walked over, grabbed a dark green bag with a strap. “This’ll do great. Thanks.” He walked over and put it on the counter.

“Ok, man, let’s see,” he said scanning the tag with a handheld scan gun. “That brings your total to $125.29.”

Brian pulled out some cash and handed him seven twenty dollar bills. “There you go,” he said, looking over at the door.

“Would you like a bag for this, or are you good with the duffle?” he asked, smiling.

“Just shove it into the duffle,” he replied. “Thanks.”

“Cool man,” said the grey-haired gentleman. “Come back soon. And don’t forget, I can order as many of the MREs as you need. They don’t turn over often, so give me a day or so to get them in.”

“Ok, thanks. I’ll let you know,” Brian said, picking up the duffle and heading to the door.

“Have a great day,” said the man.

“Thanks,” Brian said as he opened the door and walked out.

He checked his new phone’s email.  A new email from jose34762@yahoo.com had arrived that said, “At park. You still coming?”

Brian thought, “Crap, I forgot to text him my new number.”  He opened the message app and entered Jose’s number, then “Chuck here. OMW. New phone. See you in 10”

He picked up the pace a bit, then ducked down an alley and behind a dumpster. He pulled the MREs out of the duffle and put them in the backpack. Then he pulled the cash out of the backpack, still wrapped in paper and put it in the duffle, zipping it back up. Then he put the duffle in the backpack. Once everything was all zipped up, he walked back out of the alley and towards Washington Square.

A couple of minutes later, he entered the park. He took one of the paths that paralleled the border of the park. A minute later he saw Jose on one of the benches. He pulled the duffle out of his backpack, zipping it as he walked. He sat down on the end of the bench putting the duffle and backpack down on the ground, next to a small blue canvas backpack that Jose had by his feet.  Brian pulled out his phone and pretended to check his email. Jose was already looking at his phone and was wearing white earbuds. He gave “Chuck” a quick nod and Brian did the same. Jose sat for about 30 more seconds and then picked up the green duffle and walked off. Brian knew he would stop at a bench farther down, to tie his sneaker and count the money, because they had done this before, a few times. They both trusted each other, a bit, so Brian waited to pick up the canvas bag and quick-count his newly laundered cash. It looked correct, so he closed the bag and sat back for a couple of minutes. Jose had moved on, too. Brian continued to look at his phone, checking the latest news. There was still quite a bit of buzz about the mysterious “hero” that foiled the bank robbery. “Wow, what’s the big deal?” Brian thought.

He picked up the bag and his backpack and headed out of the park. It was getting close to lunch time and he needed to make one more stop, just to put everything in order for the meeting. But he didn’t want to do it in the park, just in case Jose was followed. He walked a couple of blocks away and ducked into another alley. He pulled a manila envelope out of the backpack, then opened the blue bag. He placed 10k of the bundled twenties neatly into the envelope, counting as he went. “Phew,” he thought, “Jose didn’t screw me.” Then he closed the envelope and clasped it and tucked it into his backpack. He put another 5k of bundles in another envelope. He took the remaining cash and shoved it into another small paper bag he had in the backpack. He zipped it up and the shoved the blue bag into a dumpster. Then, he quickly exited the alley, heading toward “Uncle Ted’s”.

Brian chuckled to himself as he thought, “From Uncle Sam’s to Uncle Ted’s… I can tell Susan I spent the day with my uncles. Nah, too much info. Anyway, I should call her now that I’m not busy tonight.” Before he could get the courage, he found himself at Uncle Ted’s. “I’ll call her later,” he thought as he walked in. It was only 11:15, so Brian removed the hat and sunglasses and went to the bar.

As Brian approached, the bartender looked up from stocking the cooler. “May I help you, sir?”

“Yes, do you have Baijiu?” he asked.

“Oh, no sorry, sir,” he replied.

“Ok, how about Tsingtao?” Brian asked.

“Yes, sir,” he replied. He reached into the cooler and pulled out a bottle. He opened it and placed it on the bar with a glass.

“Thanks,” replied Brian. He poured the glass 3/4 full and set the bottle down. He shifted around on the bar stool so that he could view the door and then drank the glass to the half-way mark. He pulled out his phone, but there weren’t any new messages, so he put the phone back into his pocket. He killed the rest of the beer in the glass and started to reach for the bottle, but Sam and Steve walked in. So, we pulled out a ten dollar bill and laid it on the counter next to the glass. Then he walked over to meet them at the door.

Sam saw Brian approach. “Hey man, how’s it going?”

“Great” Brian replied. He held out his hand to Steve. “You must be Steve,” he said.

Steve, a very tall, skinny guy with tortoiseshell-rimmed glasses, held his hand out and shook Brian’s hand. “Yes, that’s right. Nice to meet you.” He looked very boring and all business, in Brian’s estimation.

“Likewise,” replied Brian.

Sam spoke to the hostess, “I made a reservation. My name is Sam.”

“Oh yes, of course” replied the hostess. “Right this way,” she said, grabbing three menus from her podium.

Sam led the way and Brian motioned for Steve to follow. Brian trailed behind. They were seated near the back, which is actually where Brian preferred for this meeting. They all sat down and the hostess said, “Your waitress will be right with you.”

Sam replied, “Thank you.”

Brian looked over at Steve. “So Sam tells me you’re brilliant with electronics.”

Steve smiled and replied, “Uh, well, yes, I really like working with electronics, mostly small electrics like computer hardware and peripherals. I have an EE from MIT.”

“Ok,” Brian replied. “Did Sam tell you about my project at all?”

“Well, he told me you have plans for a device or wiring harness you need,” said Steve.

“Yeah,” said Brian. “I basically have schematics for these two devices, one is a controller of sorts, for a power converter. It’s sort of an ignition and throttle and the other is a high voltage generator.  I have the inputs for the generator and the outputs and status for the throttle.”

“Hmm, OK,” said Steve. “So what does all this connect to?”

“So, that’s a great question,” Brian said. “But I can’t tell you. I’m just friends with the designer, who needs this — just a middleman.  But I do know that there’s a lot at stake, and we’ll only get one try at this. If it blows up, there is no plan B.”

“Blows up?” Steve asked.

“Yes, blows up or burns up,” Brian said nodding his head. “Either one would be very bad. Like I said, it’s some kind of throttle control. So, if it goes awry, it could get pretty messy. And then, none of us would get paid.”

“I see,” said Steve. “Well, let’s see the schematic and I can tell you if it’s feasible, and whether I feel comfortable doing the work.” He looked over at Sam and then back to Brian, and smiled a bit.

“OK,” Brian said, “I’ve got it here. But I just wanted to make sure you know how high the stakes are.” Brian reached into his backpack and pulled out a manila folder.  He peeked inside and produced a folded sheet of legal paper. On it was a drawing of an oval-like hole with two prongs and three small holes, all about the size of a finger. Brian pointed at it and said, “This is actual size.”

He pointed at a list of list of numbers. “These are the range levels for each of those numbered connectors and this describes the controls and various states.” He pointed at a paragraph of text.

“Hmm, OK,” said Steve.

Brian peeked into the folder again and product a couple of photos, laying them on the table. “This is a photo of that and this is a photo of the control. I’ve labeled the states on the control.”

“Damn, that looks weird,” exclaimed Sam. “Almost alien.”

Brian looked over at him. “Yeah, it may be German or Soviet or something.” He was lying, of course, but thought that might be a way to deflect further questions about the source of this gadget.

Steve looked at Brian and said, “This is not like any of the German or Soviet hardware I’ve ever seen.”

Brian kind of smiled. “Yeah, I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask. I agree, it looks kind of weird,” he said, again lying. This didn’t look odd at all. He remembered seeing his father behind these controls, even though he was barely able to walk when he last saw his father using them.

The waitress approached “Hi guys, can I get you something to drink?”

“Oh yeah,” said Sam. “I’d like an iced tea.”

“Steve?” Asked Brian.

Steve replied, “Tea, please.”

The waitress asked, “Hot or on ice?”

“On ice, please,” Steve replied. “Thanks.”

Brian looked up at her, “I’d like a Tsingtao please.”

“OK guys, I’ll be right back with those drinks. Would you like any appetizers?”

Brian looked at the other guys. “You guys want anything? I’m buying.”

Steve replied, “No, thanks.”

Sam said, “Nah, I can wait.”

The waitress replied, “OK, be right back. Be sure to check out the specials.” She walked away.

“Next,” Brian said while looking through the folder again, “is the power unit that controls the main engine.”

“Engine?” Steve asked.

“Yeah, but we don’t know anything about the engine. Just this power unit,” Brian said. “By regulating the power into this unit, it will control the engine. Just use the ranges I’ve provided as input.  Here are the schematics for the power unit.”

He pulled out another folded sheet of paper and unfolded it and turned it to face Steve. Steve leaned over and started tracing some of the lines with his fingers.

“What is all of the stuff that’s been marked out and covered up?” Steve asked, looking a little concerned.

Brian looked at him and replied, “This unit is a big trade secret, according to my contact. He redacted a bunch of the schematic, but he said you should have everything you need.”

“Well, it makes me a little nervous,” Steve replied, with a concerned look.

“Yeah, what are your concerns?”

“Well, a lot of this looks very advanced. And if it’s really critical, and I’m not aware of it, I might cause a malfunction. A catastrophic one,” he said looking a little worried.

“I see,” said Brian.

“And, this looks so advanced. I mean I’ve never seen anything like it. It makes me wonder if it’s stolen tech” he looked up sheepishly at Brian. Sam looked over at Brian as well.

“No, it’s not stolen,” Brian said shaking his head little. “It’s being custom built for my client, from what I know.” Again, he was lying, since this device was on its way to New York from a lab in Pasadena or surroundings, as they speak.

“Well, I’m going to need to see the rest of this schematic, or the device, to feel confident about its origin and to be sure my device will work sufficiently,” Steve replied.

“I understand,” Brian replied.  “Unfortunately, neither one of those things can happen. I understand your reservations, but these are our constraints, for which my client is willing to pay handsomely to offset your concerns. Look, if you’re not comfortable with this, I’m sure we can find another MIT genius to do the work. I’d just prefer to work with someone I trust, and Sam vouches for you. I can’t have any Bozos on this project.”

Steve looked down at the schematic and then back at Brian and Sam. “It just makes me nervous, is all.”

“I get it, I understand completely. It’s a lot of pressure to get it right,” he said.  “Tell you what,” he looked up to see the waitress approaching so he pulled the papers back, folding them all. “Think about it while we eat, ask questions and maybe you’ll feel more comfortable about it after we talk.”

The waitress arrived. “Here ya go, guys. Any questions about the menu?” She set the drinks down, then placed her tray on another table.

“I have a question,” Brian said.  “What is your favorite, sparing no expense? I’m trying to impress this guy so he will work with me on a project,” he said, pointing at Steve. Sam and Steve both kind of laughed.

“Hmm,” said the waitress, “Lemme think. It’s not the most expensive item, but I really like the shrimp with lobster sauce.”

“Ok, I’ll have that.  Steve, what would you like, or do you have a favorite, since you and Sam picked the place?” Brian asked.

Sam jumped in, “I’ll have that, too.”

Steve glanced at the menu. “I really like Moo Shu Chicken,” he said.

Sam replied, “Oh yeah, that looks good, too.”

Steve looked up at the waitress, “So let’s just make it simple and I’ll have the same as these guys.” He looked over at Brian who was grinning back.

The waitress replied, “You got it. It should be out shortly.” She walked toward the kitchen.

Brian looked over at Sam and said, “Oh and Sam, I have a package for you.” He reached into his backpack and pulled out an envelope. “I trust you’ll do the right thing with this.”

“Oh yeah, man,” he replied. “For sure. He peeked into the envelope and his eyes got huge. “Is this the number we discussed?”

“Yes, of course, it’s all there,” he said glancing over at Steve to see if this was having the desired effect the timing might bring. “I promised you, and there it is.”

“Wow, thanks a lot,” he said appreciatively. Brian was glad that he was sitting across the table or he might be warding off a big hug right now.

“Just spend it well,” he said turning his attention back to Steve. “So, what questions can I answer for you?”

“Well, basically, I just feel a bit uneasy since I can’t see the device or all of its schematics,” he replied again. “I don’t want to say it’s a trust issue since I don’t see how this could be connected to me if I never see it, but there is a chance. I don’t want to get into any trouble if your guy isn’t being honest with you. But I also don’t want to fail as a result of missing any important details. If it doesn’t work, it could be because of one of these unknown factors, which wouldn’t be my fault.”

Brian nodded. “Yes, I understand those concerns.  First of all, you’re isolated by me. My client will never know you’re involved, unless you okay me to pass it along, for future reference. Otherwise, you can wait until after the project, if you want to take the credit.”

“Ok,” Steve replied.  “That makes it a little better.”

“Second, as long as your interface performs within the specified ranges, you’re golden. It won’t blow up. And, if it doesn’t work, you’ll get the opportunity to make more money with version two.”

“Ok,” he said. “So I’ll get paid upon delivery?”

“No, not delivery, acceptance testing,” Brian replied. “If it works with the throttle and outputs the proper value ranges, then you’ll get an envelope full of cash, too.  And I have one to give you to get started, to cover expenses and cover some of your time spent.” He reached and pulled out another envelope, placing it into the folder containing the schematics. He then pushed the envelope in Steve’s direction. Steve opened the folder and looked at the schematics again. He studied the design, wondering what else was originally here but could no longer be seen. He pondered the possibility that this could be a stolen prototype of a military device and he could be enabling an ICBM to be flown by some religious radical into the White House or a Yankees game, or something worse.

He looked up at Brian, looking deeply into his eyes.  “Your client,” he said, with a pause. “They aren’t Muslim or related to any kind of radicalized group, are they?”

Brian looked back at Steve. “I can assure you of that, and that this will not be used in anything that will harm another living creature. I believe it will have a pilot, but that is the only person who could be in harm’s way. My client is an entrepreneur who has a vision to do something great. He’s not destructive in any way.”   

Steve looked at the drawing and photos again. Then he looked inside the envelope at what looked like about five thousand dollars. He gulped a bit and closed the envelope and then the folder.  Before he could answer, the food was arriving and each had the same plate placed in front of them.

Brian looked up at the waitress and said, “Thank you. Could I have another beer, please?”

“Oh yes, of course” she replied.

Steve looked up from his plate and said, “Could I get one of those, too.” 

“Yes, of course,” she replied. “Be right back. Enjoy your lunch.”

Steve picked up a fork and ate some of his shrimp.  He chewed, looking out toward the front of the restaurant, pondering his options.

Brian dug into his plate. After swallowing his first bite, he said, “She was right, this was a good choice.”

Sam nodded, “Mmm, yeah,” he said with his mouth full.

The waitress appeared with the two beers. Brian looked up at her and said, “Thank you, and thanks for the food recommendation. This is very good.”

“You’re welcome. You guys need anything else?” They all shook their head. “Enjoy,” she said and walked away.

After another moment, taking another bite of his food, Steve picked up his tea glass and sipped it. Then he looked over at Brian and said, “This looks like a very generous offer, for what feels like a somewhat simple wiring harness, which is another concern.”

Brian replied, “Well, there is a consideration of time. My client would like this as soon as possible, but when it is completely ready — don’t compromise safety over expedience.”

“Oh, of course not,” Steve replied.

“But that’s why he is willing to pay handsomely. He also expressed a non-disclosure, but I assured him that it probably wasn’t necessary since Sam trusts you and the client is being so generous with the up-front cash,” Brian said.

Steve took another bite. Brian looked over at Sam who was gobbling his lunch as if there was nothing more important. Steve picked up his tea and took another sip. He looked over at Brian and sat still for another few seconds, while Brian swallowed another bite.

“I’ll do it. I’ll do it for five thousand, upon successful testing,” he said.

Brian smiled and said, “We have a deal then.”  Sam looked up and smiled.

With that, Steve picked up his beer and held it toward Brian, who picked up his as well. 

“Cheers,” said Brian.

Steve replied, “Cheers.” Steve sipped the beer. “Please tell me again, there is nothing illegal going on here.”

Brian replied, “There is nothing illegal going on here.”

He hated lying, but it was necessary if he was going to get Steve’s help. And no one was getting hurt in this transaction. Everyone who developed the tech would have job security, except for the guy who allowed it to be stolen. But if he was discovered, he probably shouldn’t be there anyway — he’s a bad guy and this tech could have fallen into the wrong hands. And this device was one of three built, so the lab has a couple to spare. Brian keeps telling himself this because he regrets that he has resorted to theft, but there is no other way acquire this sort of technology legally. And he needed it badly, or he was going nowhere.

“So, how long will it take you to build it?” Brian asked.

“I think it will take me a week, but no more,” he replied. “Like I said, it’s not highly complex but has to be made to certain tolerances. Let me get your number and I’ll call you if I encounter any surprises.”

“Absolutely! That’s fair. We’ll exchange numbers and email,” Brian replied. Here is my card, just email or text your contact information to me.  He laid a card down on the table and Steve picked it up.

“Oh, okay great,” Steve replied. “Brian Chandler, okay. Sam never mentioned your last name.”

“Oh, really?” Brian replied. “Well, I’m sorry I didn’t properly introduce myself before.  So, that also has my email address, that you can use if you need to send me any sketches or photos. Or you can also text me.”

“Ok, sounds good,” Steve replied. “So, do you also work as a bike messenger with Sam?”

“No, that was a long time ago” he replied, “Now, I have a bunch of odd projects, trying to strike it rich with a few crazy ideas.” He laughed a bit to sell it. Sam kept quiet, still eating.

They finished their meal with small talk and Steve had a few more basic questions. Brian paid the bill with cash and they all walked out together. Brian reached out and shook Steve’s hand and said, “Don’t hesitate to call, text or email with any questions.”

“Sure thing,” he replied. “Thanks for letting me be part of your project.” He turned to Sam.  “And thanks, Sam, for looping me in.”

“Hey man, no problem,” said Sam.  “Just remember me for your Christmas card list.”

“Ok, you got it” he replied.

“All right guys, gotta run,” Brian said. “Talk to you soon.”

Sam replied, “Yeah, see ya.”

Steve said, “Ok, I’ll send you my info. Thanks.”

Brian turned and headed toward the subway.

Continue to Chapter 15
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