By Way of Introduction
Our cast in order of original appearance:
I’m Christopher Carlyle, Chef, mid thirty software engineer who made multimillions when I sold my company to one of the big four. I invented an app that tracked the use of the other apps on any device. For lots of people it’s no big deal. For others, app junkies who have so many gadgets on their device it clogs the arteries of the machine. Users can see on one page a summary of usage, can delete apps they never use, free up a bit of elbow room on their screens.
It’s free, if you include in free the fact that it collected volumes of data on usage, including usage unrelated to apps, like who you called, what you searched for, how often, even what time of day or day of the week. If they touched the screen or tapped a key, it was in the data. Naturally I didn’t include that in the blurb.
From the user’s point of view, they see only an app usage report, including the time of day and how long they spent. The money came when he sold the data to whoever wanted it. Chef was a popular guy with data miners.
Flush with cash, I hired coders to crank out more apps and games. Simple things, even games for kids that were reasonably educational, work with numbers, spelling, that sort of thing. More money came in as the company’s reputation for giving kids a fun way to learn bounced ratings through the roof. Of course, I also had fresh kiddie data to peddle to toy and cereal manufacturers. I sold out to one of the big four, in my estimation for an astounding amount of money, it was dizzying, almost strange. Wu Wei came to mind, action that does not involve struggle or excessive effort.
Two hundred million grew to four with the raging bull market, another two hundred in tax free bonds. My tax free income alone is over two million a year.
Zoe C a student at UCLA came to live with me. I’d bought a thousand acres of mountain in Malibu and built a house to match. Zoe C’s initial job was housekeeping for which she got a free place to live, meals and use of one of the cars. Zoe C are not lovers, we became close confidants, so close that Zoe C can read my thoughts and drop in her own without verbalizing.
Later came Elle. Elle is Zoe C’s friend, her Very Great Friend, a nineteen year old hottie, like Zoe C, long of leg, athletic drop dead gorgeous. Very great friends means what you think it does, they’re an item. Elle is perfecting an algorithm to select stocks with an eye towards outperforming the market, using both longs and shorts.
Natalie graduated with a Master’s in Finance. After a lucrative stint at Goldman, and moving in with us, she began her own company modeled on Berkshire Hathaway. That is, she buys whole companies, not like Buffet in size, not yet, but smaller companies that need access to expansion cash but don’t want to give away the ranch for venture capital vultures. They sell to Natalie with the understanding that nothing changes regarding their position in the company. Like Natalie says, ‘I buy good management and solid products. My role is to allocate capital, both to help the company grow and to keep it from being stupid. I don’t manage companies, I manage capital.’
Zelda, a Neapolitan Mastiff pup I found huddled on the side of the road, tired, hungry and dehydrated. I took her home, the girls were smitten.
McKenzie, a child of twelve now, is Natalie’s niece. When her sister died of cancer, there was only eight year old autistic McKenzie and no one to care for her. I told Natalie that we’d handle the legals, to bring the girl back from Connecticut and she should adopt. Mac turns out to be high functioning autistic, more like Asperger’s.
Zelda immediately connected, as frequently happens with big dogs and little girls.
Then came Mickey, a transgender boy who is all girl. Her mom was an out of it drug mule, none of the relatives would touch the boy. Before the gangs could snatch him and turn him into a child sex profit center, Zoe C and I went to San Bernardino and took the six year old home.
Burma, a Burmese kitten that became Mickey’s pal, but Burma is way too sly and playful for one family member. Pass her cat tree when she’s up at the top hidey hole and she’ll leap on your back, bounce off and scamper right back up to lurk in silence for her next victim.
Zackary was given up for adoption by parents who couldn’t come with a blind child. The adoptive parents were killed in a private plane crash. Zoe C and Natalie flew to Indianapolis, our pasted together family has a new child. He was six when we got him, Mickey was eight by then, McKenzie ten.
Cilia, pronounced Seelya, full name Cecilia, ‘blinded’ in Latin, is a Great Dane we got as a pup for Zackary. Zelda has quite enough on her paws and the girls wanted a dog that was primarily Zackary’s. That was a couple years ago, the Dane is starting to hit the Great part. Not yet a hundred fifty pounds like Zelda, but working on it.
So there you have it, three women, three children, two monster dogs and a lightening quick cat.
I’m disinclined to take you through how we came to our more nefarious activities. Part vigilante, part detective, we’ve accumulated a network of supporters, citizens, cops, district attorneys, social workers, nurses and physicians. Most don’t know each other, they know we get results that the legal system seems to constantly fumble. And we are an anonymous conduit between agencies. People get territorial, as do departments and agencies. We pass messages back and forth when one agency needs information that another won’t release. They know what’s going on, but we supply deniability, and we’re a hell of a lot more efficient than cross agency memos.
We ran a hotline, a website, that anyone could send a message requesting help with an abusive boyfriend, husband, a neglectful parent of either gender. A couple of us would drive or fly out, find the abuser, make him see the light. Torture may or may not be effective in getting useful intelligence from an enemy, but it works beautifully when used to make an intransigent asshole find something to do besides beat his spouse, girlfriend or kids. It’s hard to make an effective fist without thumbs, or chase down the children without a kneecap. When you want to make an omelet, you have to break some bones.