A Lassie James Novel Ch. 5

I dreamed of San Francisco but wound up in Millbrae.

I used to want a book deal, but now there’s nothing left to say.


I’ve mostly made my peace, don’t wonder too much why.

But I still dream of Gimghoul Road, and the Pilgrim’s Progress makes me cry.


Green tea and green label,

keep my mind alert, my liver stable.

Doing less than I am able.

I’ve become The Displaced Man.

I’ve become The Displaced Man.


Chapter 5

It was somewhere between 3 and 4 a.m.

Fats had a high-end Tesla waiting outside. There was heat. There was a driver. The car was space-age.

We both got in the backseat.

“Nice ride,” I said.

“It’s new,” she said, without humor, focusing on her phone. “A car designed for a scientist. It promises to text me weekly data. I’ll be able to track its operations the way Delta can with its jet planes. And I can use an app to turn on the car and heat up the seats before I walk out the door in the morning.”

The Tesla was a like a magic carpet. No engine. No sound. Wheels turning at the direction of a computer chip, not a combustion engine. I was riding inside a PowerPoint presentation.

All through the ride, Fats was swiping and poking the phone, wide awake, answering email from her employees around the world and exchanging texts with her friends from the Today Show. Matt Lauer is a real smart ass on with his texts. Who knew?

The green tea was starting to give me a second wind, or a third. I had a 9 a.m. appointment with Mallette to discuss my upcoming dissertation defense. How to manage the stagecraft, the egos on the committee and the methods discussion. No sign of trouble. Just the kind of statistical conversation that scholars pursue. For the work, I was using a kind of time-series analysis. I appreciated the chance to hear any questions that had come up, ahead of next week’s defense. It was coming up on Monday. Given that we were in the pre-dawn hours of Tuesday, that meant my defense is less than a week away.

And now I was apparently a millionaire, thanks to Siler’s negotiating skills.

“You dropping me off. Have the driver head down South Columbia to Westwood,” I said, figuring I could grab a couple of hours of sleep, take a boiling shower and get to my meeting without too much damage.

“We’re headed to my new place,” she said. “I’ve got a guest house out back. It’s yours for now.”

Fats didn’t frame this as an invitation. Sounded more like a directive.

This was the CEO side of her that I had read about but never seen in person. Dr. Holly Pike had turned into an executive. The spontaneous girlfriend I knew, Fats, lived on mostly in my imagination.

The driver turned down Gimghoul and pulled into the drive of a sprawling Queen Anne home that had been expanded over the years. There was indeed a guest house out back.

Fats locked up her phone and exited the car.

“Come inside with me. Want to show you some things,” she said.

The driver opened my door for me. I got out and followed Fats through the stone pathway, past the dogwoods and laurels and red tips. Up the porch and through the double doors of heavy, dark wood.

The living room was lit up and humming. Two laptop computers where open and alive. The TV was on CNN and muted. A Tumi computer case was on the sofa.

An attendance came in with a tray. There was a pot coffee. There was a teapot with genmaicha steeping. She poured a cup for Fats

“Thank you,” Fats said to her staff. “You can head home now. Appreciate you getting us settled.”

The attendant went back through the kitchen. I heard a back door open and close. I saw Tesla lights come on in the driveway. The driver was ferrying the attendant home.

“The day shift will come at 6,” Fats said, seeing me watch the car pull away and assuming I was wondering who would brew the next pot.

Fats and I were alone. For the first time in 30 years.

I sank into the sofa. Numb from booze and caffeine and the thought of hiring an accountant to figure out the taxes on $5 million.

“I’ll have a contract sent over to you by noon and a first check of $1.25 million,” Fats said. “Quarterly checks for the same amount will follow, until we wrap the year. You can quit or I can fire you – with 30 days’ notice required either way. Everything you learn, everything you hear, everything you write – it’s all yours, as I promised. The only thing off limits are the trade secrets that I’m bound by legal agreement to protect.”

She handed me a leather folio.

“Take a look at that and then hand it back. When I get the signed contract back from you, I’m making those files and more – several boxes, actually – available to you in the guest house out back. It will be your office. For now,

The folio was soft and buttery. Money may not be able to buy happiness, but it sure buys better leather.

Inside were 5 pieces of pager, each 8.5 x 11 – just like what you’d get out of the copier at Kinko’s.

On each page was a printed copy of an email sent to Fats, alleging fraud. On each email, the sender’s name showed as “Bootstrap.”

The mails were brief and accusatory without offering details. But the tone was serious, the sender’s persistence added to the gravity. The sender claimed that many peer-reviewed articles from GRL were fraudulent, that findings were being tweaked to enhance the professional standing of the authors and to enable individual researchers to profit.

“Those are the five most recent. It started back in the summer. Came once a week, maybe twice. Lately, it’s been heating up,” Fats said.

Each email was time stamped at 4:17 a.m. There was an email a day, for the past five days.

A buzzing interrupted the silence.

Fats reached for her phone. I looked at my watch. 4:17 a.m.

“Bootstrap is on time, once again,” Fats said.

She read the email silently. Then out loud to me.

Shame on UNC and Sanders Mallette for honoring the founder of a company tolerating fraud. Let’s see what SM has to say when I reveal the fraud to him.

Chapter 6