Chapter Two:The Team Begins to Form

1 Moving Forward

They met at Jake’s apartment. He ordered in food and made a pot of coffee as soon as he got back from Long Island. His dining room table doubled as a conference table in his efficient studio in the East Village, and he set that up with pads of paper, pens, tiles (leftover from someone’s kitchen renovation) for hot dishes, one plug-in hot plate and enough coffee cups for his team. He was most interested in the coffee and poured himself a cup as soon as it was ready.

Justin was the first to arrive, and poured a cup of coffee as he was taking off his jacket and hanging it on a chair, his chair. Justin always sat facing the windows, with his right arm near the bookshelves. He was a martial arts expert and it was habitual to keep his right hand free.

“Hey, Jake. I can’t believe I’m the first here, but I made an extra effort.”

Jake looked him over quickly. This was the assessment of an old friend. His eyes were bloodshot, and his skin flushed but mottled…. “You stayed over in Vegas, you old coot. Was Penny with you at the wedding at least?”

Justin laughed. “I feel as bad as I look but it was all worth it, at least as much as I remember. Of course Penny was there. I dropped her off with our bags and kept the cab to come right down here. I would love to get married in Vegas myself. What a party! But, I don’t think Penny’s family would go along with it. They are going to want a big wedding in Westchester….”

“And, you, the boy from the plantation…. You know I love Penny, but her family is very WASP, very proper….”

Justin chuckled, “… perhaps I will invite my friends to the honeymoon, and leave the wedding to Penny’s family!”

Jake laughed with him as someone rang at the outside door and he went over to buzz in Charlie. The food guy came up with him, and Jake paid him at the door.

Jake’s cat, Napoleon, was in hiding. He wasn’t fond of guests, especially men. He had grown up with Georgia, so she was in a different category. Charlie liked cats and went looking for him as soon as Jake let him in, but, Napoleon had his hiding spots and Charlie never found him.

The men had just greeted each other and gotten coffee, when Vince arrived. He realized he was the last one to get there and said, “I know, I know. It’s always the guy who lives closest who’s the last to arrive…. That’s the problem. I live 2 minutes away by bike, 7 minutes away by roller blades, and 35 minutes by bus.”

“And you took the bus?”

“Of course not. Roller blades. That way I don’t have to worry about anyone in this neighborhood taking my bike…. 7 minutes works for me. I’m not late, just last….”

“So, Jake, what’s cooking?” asked Charlie.

“Well, I have,” he answered as he sat down, “several ideas.” He passed out typewritten sheets with a proposal on each one. “I now have my favorite, but let’s see which ideas appeal to you guys.”

The guys took some time to read over his proposals. The module was among them. Jake poured himself some more coffee.

When it seemed that they were ready, he asked, “One at a time, I’d like you to talk about your favorite idea. Don’t worry about facts at this point, let’s just look for a ‘gut’ level discussion.” He nodded at Justin, always ready with a gut level reaction, complete with a Southern drawl.

“Well, I like the Pre-Paid Legal idea. It makes use of social networking, and we all have large networks to tap. It is a unique service as far as we know. It doesn’t cost almost anything to get it going. I think we’d have a great time with this. It feels good to me.” Justin looked up and held his hands out, an invitation to prove him wrong.

“And, Charlie?” Jake asked.

“Well, you know me, Jake. If there’s something to be built, I want to build it. I like the module. I don’t think there’s any doubt that folks are going to need to reduce their oil consumption and reducing their driving is one way to do that. I love the privacy and that the company is providing the space for their employee, and I’d rather be doing business with companies than with individuals…. Finally, I think the idea that they can work from home, or from anywhere in the world, and get to a meeting on time is delightful!”

Everyone laughed. Jake and the others knew Charlie well. When he was working on a project, he hated to stop, and that was if he knew what time it was. They had dragged him out of engineering a number of times, hours after his shift was over….

Vince was last. He was neither as earthy as Justin, nor a scientist/artist as was Charlie. Jake wasn’t sure what he would prefer at first glance.

“I like both of those too. I don’t see us setting up a day care network, or out there becoming real estate magnates. I don’t think any of us could evict a serviceman who was down on his luck! I think these are great ideas, Jake, and good for you for coming up with so many good ones. However, to the task at hand…. If I have to choose right now, I’d choose the Pre-Paid Legal because it’s an established business and we can all plug in to the trainings. However, if we can talk about it some more, I really like the idea of developing something that came totally from us – The Module. The income figures for PPL are pretty well documented. In 3 years, an associate can be making 6 figures. I would like to develop a business plan for The Module so that we have more to compare.”

“I wish we had a picture,” Justin commented. “I just can’t picture what this would look like in someone’s garden….”

“Hey, Justin,” Jake interrupted. “This isn’t a done deal yet….”

“Yes it is,” and he smiled. “Vince and Charlie almost never agree, and as soon as we run some numbers, I think we’ll see that developing our own product is more lucrative. And, I can feel the excitement from you in the way that you wrote about it. You don’t even have to add your comments….”

“Well, since you asked, I do have a sketch of the way that I pictured it….” He got up and went to his files, and pulled out the sketch he had attempted. “Some people can sell an idea, but I am more comfortable with an actual object that is useful, and preferably, unique.”

He could tell that Justin was more interested once he saw the picture. Charlie spoke first.

“Hey, that’s more or less the way I thought we could do it. Like the cabin of a cruising boat. It would be elegant but tidy and efficient.

“I thought you’d be just the person to develop this idea,” Jake answered.

“I don’t know anything about solar energy” Charlie added.

“Then, we all have something to learn,” Vince added. “I think that is the only way to go. It has to be comfortable in the heat and in the cold, and we can’t keep it plugged in all the time or it will cost a fortune.”

“And, Justin, we’re still going to need our networks to make contacts with corporations who might be interested in this and be able to afford it” Jake responded to Justin. “I am sorry though that my feelings came through so unmasked.”

“Not so, Kimmosabe, it’s just that we know you so well. You and Charlie are doers, not talkers, builders, not schmoozers, and designers, not teachers.”

Jake and Charlie laughed, looking at Justin. It was Vince who answered, “Yet, the time will come when the company needs the talkers and the schmoozers and the teachers….”

“So, let’s write a ‘to do’ list”, Vince continued. “We need to know what to do next.”

Jake loved this team. They almost literally put their heads together at his small table, and he took notes, or the minutes if you will, on his pad.

• Find out how to incorporate. (Vince)

• Get a name. (All. Next meeting.)

• Find out who will make molded fiberglass to spec and how they charge. (Jake)

• Talk with several cell phone companies and get specs and prices. (Justin)

• Talk with several U-Tube type video techs and get ideas. (Vince)

• Make some better drawings. (Charlie)

The list went on for two pages. The last entry got them into marketing, and Jake took the opportunity to bring up Amanda….

Justin almost fell off his chair. “I am so totally out of it, but still I was wondering what was up about you.”

“You’ve been bitten, haven’t you?” Vince asked.

And, Charles, ever the most formal, added, “If you’re going to be… dating her, you shouldn’t be doing business with her.”

Jake had worried about this too. “We’re all friends, and we’re going into business together….” Jake asserted.

“You know it’s not the same.” Justin explained. “We’ve been through hell and back, and we don’t have any pretenses anymore with each other. – You are still in the fantasy phase with this woman. How can you edit her work when you are still hoping to bed her?”

Jake tried. “What if you all take charge? I won’t have anything to do with marketing….”

“Never? How can you be one of the principals if you don’t know how the marketing budget is doing? How can we fire her if she’s your lover?” Vince, as always, put his finger on the pulse.

Justin added, “And, you know we’re right about this.”

“Just look at her work, and her resume,” Jake tried. “It’s impressive and we could use someone with some experience since we don’t have any….” And, he happened to have several copies of her resume which he passed out. “She’ll be here in a few minutes with her portfolio….”

“Jake!” they all exhorted, yelled, or complained. “How could you do this…?”

He was literally saved by the ringing of the downstairs bell. He knew it was Amanda and rang her in. He opened the door and waited for her to make her appearance at the bottom of the stairs.

She looked fabulous to him. She, unlike him, had taken time to shower and change, and to add perfume. His heart was beating fast, and he knew his friends were right. He was not feeling rational right now. And, to develop a marketing plan for a new product, they all had to be rational.

He ducked back into the room, “What if I don’t date her? What if I don’t touch her until this is all over?”

“Alright then”, they nodded. “Let’s just see her work and meet with her. But, no decisions until after she leaves.”

She walked into the apartment, and he closed the door behind her. “Amanda, this is Charlie, Vince and in the corner, is Justin. These guys are my partners.” He knew they were right. She was wearing a dress, sea foam green, soft, loose, but sometimes clinging, chiffon he thought. He wondered if she had seen his eyes bug out of his head. Again those green eyes and now they were accentuated with a bit of makeup, and her lips were smooth and glistening. She was tall. No one looked tall on a sailboat because you were almost always sitting or crawling, or ducking under something if you were walking or running. Her legs were long, and her fingers were long. A fantasy tried to take his attention, but he fought it back.

She went over and shook each partner’s hand, always with a personal smile. He could see them all responding. She was a beautiful woman, and they were all susceptible. There is a power in that. Some women abused that power. He didn’t think she would.

They had all cleared the table. He didn’t even see what had happened to the coffee pot and their files and his notes. She put her portfolio down and slowly undid the ties holding it together. Again, Jake had time to watch her beautiful, slender and long fingers work. Her nails weren’t long (wouldn’t work on a sailboat) but they were polished with a natural polish, and each had exactly the length of white beyond the finger as the one next to it. Again, he pushed away the fantasy.

As she took out one drawing, or finished print of an advertising piece, he watched her hands. The others, he hoped, were able to look at the work. He looked at her face, and she looked up and smiled at him. He wondered if she had liked his one yellow brick wall, and noticed how his vanilla colored walls and ceiling were not white, but a subtle pastel of the yellow brick. She was an artist. Surely she would have noticed on some level. And, did she like the contrasting, Southwest influence, turquoise shelving that he had not built in?

He saw Napoleon peeking out of his clothes closet as she answered questions about the companies she worked for, and the contracts she had with them. Most were ongoing contracts he noticed, yet she claimed to have enough time for a startup business, needing everything from logo design, and stationary/business card design, in addition to all their marketing and packaging design.

Her work was impressive. She had done logos as well as ongoing marketing concepts and sometimes did the actual illustrations as well. She always did the final layout and type concept. This was her forte. This was what, according to Georgia, made her work uniquely hers and so sought after.

Jake was able to listen sporadically. Vince and Charlie had asked several questions about her background, or her work, or her thinking as she worked, and finally, about the success of her products. She answered thoughtfully and seemed to be honest. She had one failure. It was a food product, which she tried to market to men as the most recent entry into the food purchasing and food preparers group. It was a mistake. She thought that she somehow alienated women. Justin surprised him by being quiet. Perhaps he was struggling to stay awake, or perhaps his hangover was kicking his butt.

He was already forgetting his promise to his mastermind group. His whole body was on alert and was over-riding his brain, flooding him with feel-good hormones. He was trying to figure out how to get her to come back after they finished their meeting…. Perhaps if he invited Georgia, she might bring Manda along to dinner….

He realized that Amanda had gone through her portfolio, and answered all their questions and they were all looking at him. She was putting her work back, closing and re-tying the folder. He was staring at her ankles. Her shoes also were tied. They were sandals he guessed, almost a Greek or Aramaic style, but with a slight heel.

He pulled himself back to the meeting with difficulty. “Well, thank you so much Amanda, for coming over at such short notice. We haven’t gotten to the marketing aspect of our business, as you can see, but I wanted us all to have a chance to talk with you about it before we got too far along…. Can you just give me an idea of how much time you would need to develop a concept, do the initial logo etc., and to prepare a targeted campaign? We have no idea at what point we should bring you, or a colleague, onto the team.” He thought that sounded idiotic. Of course they should bring her onto the team right now, but he knew he had to open the subject and let her know as quickly as possible that this was still in the beginning stages, and they would need some time before talking business with her.

She bent over, putting both her hands on the table, and crossing her ankles as if she felt his stare. In doing so, she also allowed the top of her dress to fall away from her chest. Now, Jake had seen her in a bathing suit after the race when they all were swimming, and diving off the Serpentine. But somehow the slight gap between the top of her dress and her chest was more intriguing than seeing her in the bikini top. They were right. How were they… or how was he going to be able to concentrate on work with her?

She, however, answered his question as if it was intelligent and well thought out. “Well, there isn’t a preferred schedule that I can refer you to. You all will need to develop your product and to think about who will be interested in buying your product. You probably want to talk to a patent and copyright lawyer even before you talk with anyone else outside your group. If none of you are accountants, you might want to find an accountant to help you develop a business plan and budget. Then, you should bring in someone to confer with as soon as possible.” She paused and looked at all of them, and stood up straight, well, straighter. She was leaning back slightly from her waist. “I don’t know if that helps you….”

Jake felt that she let them off the hook. It was not the right time to be discussing a marketing plan yet. She obviously knew more about starting a corporation than they did. “Yes, Amanda. Thank you. That was a help. We obviously have some work to do….” He smiled at her and couldn’t pull his eyes from hers. She was smiling back and she didn’t look away either.

Justin finally joined the group. “Well, Amanda. Please sign our guest book,” and he brought over the calendar they used for documenting their meetings. She signed it with the pen he handed to her. “Please add your phone number, or the phone number you want us to use. We have to finish our meeting, but we will be getting back in touch with you.” And, Justin gave her his best smile, and, always the gentleman, offered to get her a cab. She declined, and followed him to the door.

Jake noticed that they were all noticing her legs as she walked over to his door. She turned just before she left and caught his eye. He winked. He thought that she winked back just before she turned away to go through the door. It was reminiscent of the kiss on his neck…. He wasn’t sure if it was meant to be what it seemed to be….

Charlie broke the silence as Justin closed the door, held up his hand for a moment as he listened to her going down the stairs, and then put it down, a signal for all clear. “Well gentlemen, I vote her in.”

Justin, a wannabe Don Quixote, chimed in from the door, “And I. And I will fight to the death any man who tries to turn her away.”

Vince added, “I never want to fight with Justin, or Charlie either. I too would welcome Ms. Amanda Haggerty to our team.”

Jake smiled. She had won them over! “So, gentlemen, if she is a member of our team, I can spend time with her just as I can spend time with you all?”

Vince answered for the others, “But, make no mistake, you cannot spend time with us in the same way you spend time with her…” and they laughed.

Charlie added, “I think this might be a mistake, but I will soooo enjoy meetings when she is in attendance….”

Justin had rejoined the group. “And, Jake, you better not mistreat that lady, or I will find a suitable punishment that you will not like….”

Jake answered. “She has information that will be helpful to us, and corporate contacts….” These guys are pushovers. I hope that no competitor ever thinks to use a beautiful woman against us….

Justin and the guys laughed loudly. “Yes, Jake. We know that you are interested in her information….”

On that note, they scheduled their next meeting for Thursday evening, handed out the notes that Jake copied on his scanner and closed the meeting.

As soon as they had left, he called Georgia….

2 Jake meets Morgan Mallory

Georgia met Jake at the Maryland Crab House on Manhattan’s East Side, not too far from the Midtown Tunnel. It was not more than 10 minutes from his apartment. Georgia was a little farther. She had to travel from 5th Avenue and 10th Street which was closer to half an hour away. He used the extra time to shower and change.

They arrived at the same time. Georgia always looked great. She was wearing a peach colored dress that accented her tan and her blue eyes. She had done something to her hair, he thought, so that it looked longer than usual.

He went over and kissed her, and she gave him a big hug. “Thanks for helping my Dad win” she said.

“Did he get the final word?” he asked.

“No, but he met one of the Race Committee members at the bar after everyone was in, and we were so far ahead it wasn’t even close.”

“Well, you’re welcome. But it is really I who owe you a debt.”

The waiter showed them to a table. They ordered the bucket of crabs. Jake ordered a beer and Georgia ordered a Cabernet Blanc.

Georgia grinned once they were alone, and grabbed his hands. “Isn’t she special? I am so glad you two hit it off!”

“I, and my whole team,” he added. “She is knockdown gorgeous. What man wouldn’t fall for her?”

She looked at him with a little frown. “Oh, Jake, don’t insult us. You know that isn’t enough for you and that’s why I wanted her to meet you….”

He suddenly felt shy. He didn’t know why it was easier to talk about sex than it was to talk about real admiration and the appeal of a woman’s persona. “I should have known you’d say something like that, Georgia.… You said she is your oldest friend.”

“And, if it weren’t for you, she would still be my best friend…. Not that you are my best friend….”

And, Jake was delighted. Finally he was seeing Georgia struggle at least a little bit with expressing herself. He had never seen her be the slightest bit uncomfortable. He had always ascribed it to growing up rich. “How did we become friends?”

Her eyes were smiling again. “We were neighbors,” she teased. “If you didn’t live next door, and if you couldn’t hammer a nail into a wall, it never would have happened.”

“Ahhh,” he responded, “But, first I rescued you at that club in the Village. You were with some terrible people and looked so forlorn….”

She laughed, remembering. “You were still in the Navy and spending some leave time at a friend’s apartment. You did rescue me from that loud, loud place with bad dancers and bad music. We had a nice breakfast – And then, when we were splitting a cab to go home, we discovered that we lived on the same block.”

“You do remember.”

“Of course. But, the friendship part was from sharing so many commonplace, ordinary experiences like hanging a painting, cooking together, crying over a lost account, spending a day at a museum, or traveling on the LIE to go out to see my father.”

“You didn’t include making love the first time, or spending several weekends in bed without doing any of the items you list, with the possible exception of cooking together….” He added.

She leaned forward. “No, I didn’t, and they were wonderful times, but they didn’t last, did they. And, the other did.”

“I think this is one of those examples of the differences between men and women,” he explained. “That was one of the reasons I became your friend. Without that time, there would have always been a tension that would have prevented the friendship.”

She laughed. “I think I saw that movie with Billie Crystal….So we had to sleep together to get it out of the way?”

“Well, he had it right. And because of that, we now can bump into each other when we’re walking down the sidewalk together and no one gets any ideas.” He reached under the table, and grabbed her knee gently. “Or if I do this, you just listen more carefully to the point I’m trying to make, and you don’t wonder if it’s time to say goodnight to our hosts.”

The waiter brought their crabs, and drinks, and bibs, nutcrackers, and lots and lots of napkins. They thanked him and he was off.

“And what,” she asked, “do you think would happen if you grabbed Amanda’s knee?”

He laughed a great belly laugh. “Oh, Darling, I don’t kiss and tell.” However, he could see it happening, and he imagined that the result would not be casual. He pushed that image gently away, turning his attention back to Georgia.

“Men can be so annoying. I’ll give Amanda a call.”

He looked at her, and wondered how this was going to feel. He couldn’t remember a time since middle school that he had dated a girlfriend’s best friend…. “Men are always interested in what might happen. That’s where all the fun is.”

“I only wanted to know whether you, my friend Jake, are interested.”

“Yes,” he said, sounding more serious as he worked on a crab. “Do you think I should help her to hang a painting?” and he looked up from his crab. Georgia looked amused. He felt the remark was frivolous, and more casual than he really felt, but he was also a little nervous about staying serious about a woman he barely knew.

Now it was Georgia’s turn to laugh. “I think she should move in next door. Your place is too small.”

“I think I should help her to eat a crab correctly. I will teach her how to suck the sweetest meat from the tender legs…. Where does she live, anyway?”

“Upper West Side, in a nice condo. You’d like it I think. Perhaps you should move up there.”

“I don’t want to be her friend. And the team wants her to be a partner. Do you think that can work?” He wanted Georgia to know that he was serious both about Amanda, and about the business. He would choose the company if Georgia didn’t think it would work for them to start seeing each other at the same time she joined the business.

“She’s a very smart woman, and talented. She’s moved up exceptionally fast. If it was up to you, it might not work, but with her cooperation….”

He smiled. Georgia thought it part of her responsibility to make sure he stayed humble. They both took a sip of their drinks and worked on their crabs for a bit. Georgia was still on her first, and Jake was on his third. It didn’t matter because there were always more crabs in the bucket than they could eat. That was why they came here. The waiter came by to check, and was sent off to get them each another drink.

“Did she say anything to you on the way home?”

Georgia laughed. “Are we in 5th grade? Somehow, I knew you would ask, but Amanda doesn’t ‘kiss and tell’ either. You should call her. Did you tell her yet of the team’s decision?”

“I called you first. I wanted to make sure you thought it would work out alright. I don’t want to make either a mistake with the business or a mistake with her….”

Georgia looked sympathetic, and stopped trying to tease him or to make him laugh. “I understand, Classen. And, I can’t help, much as I would like to. You’re right. This is a major complication for you. Call her. She is the one you need to talk with.”

He looked at his watch. “It’s only 8:30pm. I’ll call her when I get home.” He was fairly certain that Georgia didn’t know how committed he was to his dual goal, his business and Amanda. She had only known him in relationship with her, which was not a committed relationship….

Georgia smiled as she picked out another crab from their bucket. “I can assure you that she is usually up late.”

“We are going to need an accountant…. Are you interested?”

“Is that a decision you can make without consulting the team?”

He smiled. “We’ve talked about you plenty, Bradfuit. They are all on board, if you are….”

She smiled. “Of course I’m in. I can’t think of a group I’d rather work with. Let me know when you’re ready to start seriously working.”

They finished their dinner talking about various unimportant things and headed to their own homes.

……………………

Jake found her number and dialed Amanda. Meanwhile, he put the number into his Treo.

She answered, laughing, “Hello.”

“Amanda, this is Jake Classen. Is this a bad time?”

“Shh.” She said to someone in the background. “No, Jake, this is fine. A friend is visiting, that’s all.”

“I wanted to talk with you about the results of our meeting, but if you have someone visiting….”

“It’s not a bother. What was the verdict?”

--Just like Georgia, he thought totally direct. “We want you to join the partnership. We’d like you to be a principal if you’re interested.”

“I’d love to hear more about your plans and your product, and to help in any way I can,” she answered. “What are you doing now?” she asked boldly. “If you aren’t busy, why don’t you come over? I wanted you to meet my friend anyway.”

He peeked again at his watch. 9:25pm. “Where do you live?”

“West 96th Street. NW corner of Columbus Avenue. 7b. How fast can you get here?”

He calculated. If he took his bike he didn’t have to stop at red lights and could cut through Central Park, “about 35 minutes.”

She checked with her guest. “That’s great. Come on over.”

“Will do. See you in a few.”

He took off his jeans, threw them in a backpack with a clean tee, and pulled on some shorts. Took off his button down shirt and grabbed his bike off the hooks hanging from the ceiling. This was an American bike, a racing Cannondale, and one of his extravagances when he received his re-up pay from the Navy. The rest was pretty much saved for his business startup money. Other guys bought Porche’s or BMW’s or wonderfully fully loaded trucks, but he only wanted a business. He was satisfied with his old Toyota Tercel for now. It was dependable transportation. But, the bike was a joy.

He carried it down the one flight of stairs, and off the sidewalk before jumping on. He loved riding his bike uptown. It was just getting dark, so he was careful to avoid the cars that wouldn’t be able to see him. He went across 14th Street, cutting through light traffic at 6th Avenue when the light was against him, to 8th Avenue and up 8th which was a wide, one way, northbound avenue right into the Upper West Side. There were some bicycle messengers, and they all raced each other north, skipping through the red lights and weaving through the cross-town traffic. It was not a ride for the faint of heart but it was faster than the car to that part of town.

He found Amanda’s building and took his bike inside with him. The doorman called her upstairs to announce his arrival. It had a large elevator, which always made it easier, but he stood it up so there would be room for other passengers.

When he got off the elevator, she was standing in her doorway waiting for him. It had just been a few hours but his heart quickened, he felt like laughing and a great smile spread across his face. He tried to control it a bit. This is not cool. This is not the smile of a business partner. Calm down boy!

He also began to sweat. The ride was fast and the wind kept him cool and dry, but as soon as he hit the elevator, his body went into cool down mode and his pores opened up. He tried to avoid bumping into her as he passed her in the narrow space, but she wasn’t trying to avoid it, and it took a little yoga move. Even so, they were close enough that he was aware of her scent, and he was in danger of losing control of the smile again. She offered her bathroom without his asking as she took his bike from him, and he gratefully headed in that direction to wash up and change. A cool shower would do it. There’s a pile of clean towels in the corner. It smells just like her… Down boy!

He emerged in only a few minutes in his clean clothes, feeling great. His bike was in the doorway of what seemed to be a terrace. Amanda had a half finished beer, and it looked as if the man in the room with her did too. She offered him one and he gratefully accepted. Her living room was cozy looking and warm, but not too warm. Her carpet was an oriental design with peach and light blue as the dominant colors. Her couch was the same light blue. The chair was covered in a peach tweed looking fabric. She had a very nice coffee table in front of the couch. I wonder what she thought of my place – a little rougher than this…. Meanwhile, she introduced him to the mystery man, Morgan Mallory.

Jake couldn’t help but like him instantly. He was a tall man, obviously very fit, with his own large smile and bright eyes. His head was shaved. He had a very nice watch on which Jake didn’t usually notice. He was still wearing a business shirt, but the sleeves were rolled up and the collar was open. He had on summer weight slacks, very expensively tailored, which only seemed to wrinkle at the top of the leg.

“Very nice to meet you, Jake” and he leaned into the handshake as if they had known each other for years, “Amanda told me a little about your beginning enterprise. That’s always exciting.”

Jake was glad he didn’t try to hug him, although he somehow felt that another time, he wouldn’t mind. “Nice to meet you too. Amanda seemed to feel that we should talk.”

Amanda had returned with his beer, a Beck’s, and motioned him to a seat next to her on the couch facing the coffee table which already had a coaster for him. Morgan was in a chair facing them. So far so good, Jake thought. He doesn’t seem to be a boyfriend…. And, it was a friendly thing to offer me a chance to clean up in her bathroom….

Morgan answered, “I’m glad you could come up at such short notice. I’m leaving town tomorrow and won’t be back for a couple of weeks. I wanted to meet you because a cousin of mine was on your ship. – Harry Freedman.”

Jake frowned. This was not a pleasant period in his otherwise enjoyable career. What a small world. Of all the people for Amanda to introduce him to…. He had thought she wanted him to tell Morgan about his business…. How could this help?

Morgan continued, “I have wanted to thank you for a long time for your part in finding his murderer….”

Jake nodded without adding anything. After the night of Harry’s disappearance, he was angry at the CO, Lt. Nathan Sims, who didn’t seem to care to do anything about it. He kept an eye on him as much as he could without being an officer able to share the officer’s quarters, and the officer’s mess. Unfortunately, Lt. Sims speeded up his killing rate, and tortured and killed another 5 American sailors before Jake caught him.

“I don’t want to be bringing up a horrible time for you…. I heard you saved the last sailor?”

Jake responded, “a young guy, Will O’Neill, had just come on board a few weeks earlier, a replacement. He was on my work detail. A really good man….” Jake had liked him, and wondered how he was doing now. The perp had not been found before he had begun to torture Will. Jake had only found him after he had half bled to death. They weren’t sure whether there would be any brain damage when they took him off the ship on a helicopter headed to Bethesda Naval Hospital.

It was one of the worst sights Jake had ever seen. He was hanging from a single hook in the meat locker of the galley, strapped on by his wrists and ankles and his legs looked like the nearby hunks of beef….The blood had all but stopped flowing when he interrupted the Sim’s work.

“We were lucky that time,” he continued. “I had been looking for Will, and one of his bunkmates had seen him heading toward the galley with Sims. – I just can’t give him any respect and refer to him as a Lieutenant. I hope you aren’t a veteran…. Sims must have been in a hurry. Before this, he never left a clue and no one ever heard anything. It was just that guys kept disappearing from our ship. This time, Will’s blood had seeped under the door or I might not have found them in time. As soon as I passed the door, I saw it and since there isn’t a lock on the inside for safety reasons, I just opened it. It was pretty bad, but I was so angry I lunged at Sims, and he didn’t wake up until he was in the brig…. It wasn’t really very heroic. It was a flying tackle, and he hit his head on the way down.”

Morgan responded. “I met Will in the hospital. He was still conscious when you busted in. Every time he started to pass out, Sims would inject him with some stimulant. He was awake the whole time praying to die, and could not have been happier to see you! Didn’t you ever visit him?”

Jake shook his head. “I was still on the ship for another 18 months and wasn’t family…. To tell you the truth, I was afraid that I’d gotten there too late for him to have a normal life…. As soon as I had put Sims out of commission and turned to free Will, his eyes glazed over and he passed out. I picked up the intercom to get help before I even cut him down. We never had the chance to speak again because the helicopter picked him up in minutes.”

“Well, you can give yourself a break. It was a gift that he was able to pass out because it slowed down his system, and he lost touch with the pain while unconscious. The medics put him right on IV which kept enough fluid in his system that his blood rate was able to return to normal. When the medics got there, his heart was racing at an unbelievable rate, trying to keep the little bit of blood that he had left, flowing. His doctors don’t believe that he suffered any oxygen loss or heart damage. Shortly after I met him, he was given some skin grafts and began to heal well. They had him in a burn unit because Sims had gone too deep and removed too much…. He had a few infections, but they managed to contain them, and eventually he was able to leave. He must have gotten out at about the same time you got off the ship….”

Jake took a big gulp of his Beck’s. What a relief, and, what a coincidence that Amanda’s friend would alleviate one of his greatest regrets. He looked over at Morgan and smiled, “I am very relieved to hear that…. I have often wondered about Will.”

Morgan still looked grim. “I needed to meet with him. I wanted to know whether he had heard anything about Harry since the official report had been ‘lost at sea’…. I couldn’t bring it up when I met him and he was still in the anesthetic, antiseptic tub, not even bandaged. I couldn’t ask him to go back to that day. Luckily, as soon as I explained who I was, he guessed why I was there. The monster had bragged about his other victims on that ship, and detailed for Will their reactions as he began to work on Will. Will had the feeling that Sims enjoyed to opportunity to relieve the experiences, which didn’t help him at all as you can imagine…. Harry was lucky that he was one of the, relatively speaking, earlier victims. He didn’t live very long. Sims got better as he went along.”

Jake shook his head. Perhaps Vince was right. Perhaps there were Scroons, who took human form. How could Sims have been human? “You heard they took care of him while he was in Navy prison?”

Morgan nodded.

Amanda broke the silence that followed that gruesome thought, and went off to get some more beers. Everyone was ready.

Mallory seemed comfortable in Amanda’s home. He leaned back in his chair, content to sit for a while.

Jake leaned forward and asked, “So, Morgan, where are you going?”

“You mean my trip…. I have some speaking engagements scheduled around the country. I’ll be hitting Atlanta, Miami, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and a few cities in California. Then I come home via Canada.”

“What is it you speak about?” It’s not surprising that he’s a speaker. Jake couldn’t think of another person he knew who was so dynamic, other than Bruce Bradfuit, and as he thought a little more, -- the Captain of his ship when he was in the Navy. They had all referred to him as Fletcher, because he reminded them of Fletcher Christian from Mutiny on the Bounty. They would have followed him anywhere, and done anything asked of them.

“Pre Paid Legal Services on this trip.”

Jake laughed and explained that it was one of the business ideas his group had considered, but that they had decided to develop a new product together. He was happy to be able to have a chance to find out more about its business aspect. They talked for another half hour about the network marketing business generally and PPL in specific. They offered the services of top rated lawyers for a reasonable price. As Amanda had warned, Jake’s business was going to need patent lawyers, as well as corporate lawyers. Morgan gave them the names of some associates who would be able to visit with the team and to explain their services.

Soon afterwards, Morgan and Jake left together. Morgan hailed a cab and Jake turned left toward Central Park on his bike. Jake and Amanda hadn’t really had time to talk about his, or their, dilemma, but they had made an appointment for lunch on Tuesday. He planned to talk with her then as Georgia had suggested. They could postpone the relationship if she thought that would be best…. He could not postpone moving the business forward.

Jake felt superb as he entered the park on West 96th Street. His greatest regret in life had been that he had not gotten to Will on time and now he knew that he had. His business had an incredible designer working on the team and might soon have all the legal assistance it needed. He had been on a racing team that had won their race, although it wasn’t yet official. And, to top it all off, he was going to start dating a gorgeous, smart, sexy woman! And, he could imagine himself as a successful business Director, in a beautiful home, with a wonderful wife.

He began to sing as he pedaled south on the road that would lead into Broadway which would take him east into lower Manhattan and home. He didn’t notice that it was a starless night. He didn’t notice that the tall old oaks and maples were all but blocking his view of the sky. He didn’t notice the bats overhead darting after the last of the summer insects, or that it was just the kind of night when Scroons would be about in the dark wooded areas….

3 The Story of Wanda and Peter

Wanda Brixton and Peter Thornton were married in the fall of 2006. They were both Pre Paid Legal associates, but neither had sold the membership to the other. Wanda had gotten it from her son, who had gotten it from Morgan Mallory. Peter had bought it from his work colleague, Mary, who had gotten it from her cousin, Belinda, who had gotten if from her neighbor, George, who had gotten it from his friend, Jesus, who had gotten it from his dentist, Dr. Cross, who had gotten it from his patient, Morgan Mallory. And therefore, both were in Morgan Mallory’s downline, both were in the Marathon group, and both had been well trained by Morgan’s team.

Wanda’s son was an Executive Director in the company, although he was only in his late 20’s. He had come across the company when still in college and joined up right away. Wanda didn’t see the value at first, although he often talked about it, but the day that he visited her in his brand new car, she got excited.

“Hi, Mom” he said as she let him in. He gave her a hug and a kiss and went directly over to the window. “Good,” he could see it. “Mom, could you come over here, please? I want to show you something outside.”

She joined him at the window. “Dexter, what is it you want me to see?”

“See that blue Grand Marquis?”

“The one across the street? Yes. What about it?”

“It’s my new car, Mom.”

“It’s this company I’ve been telling you about, Pre Paid Legal. I bought it with cash!”

She looked over at him, and back to the car. “Oh, Dexter, I can’t believe it! Please, let’s go down to see it. I just can’t believe you have a brand new car! I can’t find my keys; oh, here they are. Where did you get it? Comon. Hurry up. Get the elevator while I lock the door….”

Dexter laughed and gave his mom a hug. “Come on down, and I will show you the registration. Perhaps then you’ll believe it. I won’t get the New York State Title for a few weeks. It will come directly from the state.

They went down together. Dexter opened the car and his mother sat in the driver’s seat, holding the new steering wheel, and breathing in the scent of “new car.” Dexter went over to the passenger’s side and pulled out the registration card with his name on it and showed it to her. She laughed with him, delighted for her son that he had such success.

He handed her the keys, and she put it in and turned on the car. It sounded powerful and smooth. It didn’t buck, or smoke, and there weren’t any worrisome noises. It was in that moment, Wanda knew, that she decided to become a Pre Paid Legal Associate, and to become as soon as possible, a Director in the company. That was in 1999, the end of the millennium.

There were still hoops she had to jump over. She went to a meeting, and was impressed with what she saw, and the people she met, but she still didn’t sign up until she had gone to a few other meetings. There were regular briefings every Thursday evening, and on the first Saturday of the month, there was a day long major event. Every time she went, for the first few meetings, she was distracted by her own mother, or some other person or event she had to attend to.

She could see that it was a great idea, and much needed. “Justice for All” was the theme of the company. Harlan Stonecipher had set up a national system of law firms who would do the work needed by the members in the same way that doctors work for medical insurance customers. The law firms received a monthly retainer from Pre Paid Legal, based on the number of members in their area. For that, there were a number of services they would provide for free, or at a very low cost. Other more involved legal services would be provided at a 25% discount. The effect was to make legal services available even to those with low or moderate incomes.

Once she signed on, as she did that September, Morgan Mallory did her first event for her; her first Pre Paid Legal Private Business Reception (PBR) in her home. Everyone who attended signed up for the membership, and she squeezed 30 people into her little apartment that evening. Two of her aunts signed on as associates. Wanda became a Manager in her first day. She was very excited. And, Dexter was excited as well, because he would receive the overrides on her business, and any business done in the future by her or by his great aunts. He made sure that they had a chance to talk with Morgan, who invited them out to the next meeting. Dexter would be one of the presenters at that meeting.

…………

Peter Thornton’s introduction to Pre Paid Legal was a little different. Mary O’Connor worked in his section at the Post Office, and she talked to him about Pre Paid Legal every chance she had. He listened. Peter was a good listener. He could see the value in the services, but he couldn’t see himself as an associate, and he didn’t feel any pressing need to obtain the services right away. (This was before he married Wanda, and he wasn’t yet a family man.) He was happy knowing where to find Mary when he needed it. He liked Mary.

Peter’s Dad had always told him to get a good job with the government, and to stay until he was eligible for a pension. His father had worked for an airline company, who had decided to use their pension money when they needed money to invest in new planes. The deal had not worked out, and they eventually had to be bailed out by the government. He was being paid a pension, but the government insurance plan did not pay what he had been promised. He was struggling which was why he had advised his son to retire from a government job, not from a private company. This was what Peter was doing. He was working for the federal government, and had already put in 12 years toward a pension. In another 8 years, he could think about what else he might like to do with his life.

Out of friendship, and because it was only 4 blocks from the Post Office where they worked, Peter finally went to a meeting with Mary. He liked what he saw, but still did not sign up right away. He also went to several meetings before he signed up. It was there that he met Wanda, and began to develop an interest in her. She had already been an associate for 3 years when they met.

It took him a year before he signed on with Pre Paid Legal both as a member and as an associate. He still credits Mary’s determination, although, he also admits that it was his interest in the other associates that sealed the deal. They were excited about life and about their work with Pre Paid Legal. Peter just didn’t see any excitement at all at the Post Office, and this was like nectar to a honey bee. He felt he wanted to be at the meetings, and he eventually began to feel a little like an imposter since he was there so often and had not yet signed on.

Once Peter signed on, he began to talk with his family members. He had a PBR, but most of his cousins didn’t come. His Mom signed up, and one aunt, and a neighbor. It took him another two weeks to become a manager, but he also made it within the prescribed time. He kept at his cousins for a few months, and then gave up. Obviously, they weren’t interested and he didn’t want to hound them.

During his first summer as a PPL Manager, his family had a family reunion. He was dating an associate who realized that many family members weren’t yet PPL members, and hadn’t even been sent a package by Peter. She scolded him, went out to the car, and provided him with a carton of magazines about the company, for him to give out to his family. He did, and eventually got four more members out of the event. But later he found that two other cousins had become associates in another downline because he had stopped talking with them. Later he vowed, never to stop talking to anyone he had first exposed!

Peter became an exemplary Manager, and eventually made Director. He always followed through on his exposures, and made sure that his new associates were connected to the meetings, and to him and his upline for help. Neither he nor Wanda became Executive Directors in their first few years. They did not have the meteoric rise that many of the younger people with huge numbers of acquaintances had. This was a network marketing business, so the larger your network, the quicker you could rise. However, with determination, enthusiasm and training, you could build your own network from the contacts you made every day. This was what Peter did, and he became great at taking care of his contacts. In turn, they sent new applicants to him all the time.

He and Wanda started dating. He used that same attention on her and became one of those rare men who actually listen to what the woman is saying. Wanda was charmed when he would bring a bouquet of her favorite flowers for her birthday, or give her a bottle of her perfume, rather than something he liked and had bought for some other woman he’d dated. He remembered her on holidays, and he remembered her personal anniversaries. He remembered where she liked to eat, and what she liked to eat. Perhaps this last was his best trait because he had been a cook in the Navy and enjoyed cooking. He would have a party, and all the foods would be ones she liked.

…………

Wanda had been a fitness instructor before she started working at the Post Office. Some of their friends thought that one of the reasons she married Peter was to get him to stop courting her with food. She had a little worry that she would gain 20 pounds if he kept wooing her with food.

This was not true of course. They were a wonderful couple. She was light and enthusiastic, and he was positive and thoughtful. They balanced each other, and soon after they started dating, each became the other’s best friend. Because they were both associates in PPL, they both worked to do their two exposures a day, and they shared time on the phone in the evening to return calls, or to follow up on suspects.

Together, they had become Directors, and then Wanda became Executive Director before Peter. They were considering leaving the Post Office to become full time Pre Paid Legal associates, but they were also tied to the idea of having that pension they had worked so long for. If they left one minute before they reached their 20 year anniversary, they would not get a penny in pensions. They worked their Pre Paid Legal business on the subway on the way to and from work, in the evenings, and on weekends. They were totally committed to making a success of it together.

Even with their discipline and desire, things happen. Wanda had built a large organization in New Orleans with the help of her mother’s address book. Wanda would go down periodically to meet with them and ensure they were getting to trainings. They were doing well, until the hurricane Katrina hit. That year, her associates dispersed and Wanda lost track of her New Orleans network, and her mother lost track of many of her oldest friends. Yet, Wanda strengthened her New York network and still made Executive Director the next year. She and Peter were later to say to Jake that the only way to fail in Pre Paid Legal is to give up. He thought at the time, that the only way to fail in business is to give up. Perhaps that was why you didn’t need to be an “A” student to succeed in business.

Jake didn’t know all this when he called them on Monday. He got Wanda’s cell phone message machine, and she called him back in a couple of hours, which was probably her lunch hour. She and Peter agreed to come to their meeting Wednesday evening. He suggested 8:00 pm so they would have time to discuss other things first. They were starting at 5:30, providing they all were on time. He emailed the mastermind group after speaking with Wanda, letting them know the little he knew about the program, and encouraging them to both finish their assignments and to be on time for the meeting. He realized he had a lot of questions about Pre Paid Legal, even after grilling Morgan. Morgan really hadn’t told him much, but had encouraged him to ask Wanda and Peter over for a complete presentation.

4 What Are You Willing to Give Up?

Early Monday morning, Jake made a pot of coffee, and fed Napoleon. Jake looked again at the follow-up tasks they were each to complete before the meeting.

• Find out how to incorporate. (Vince)

• Get a name. (All. Next meeting.)

• Find out who will make molded fiberglass to spec and how they charge. (Jake)

• Talk with several cell phone companies and get specs and prices for phone and wireless. (Justin)

• Talk with several U-Tube type video techs and get ideas for video conferencing capability. (Vince)

• Make some better drawings. (Charlie)

In addition, they were each reading books or listening to CD’s on business and entrepreneurship every night. They were Navy sailors. They knew how to learn, but they had not gone to business school. Sometimes Jake felt a little insecure about this, but he had found that most MBA graduates went on to run other people’s companies, and not to start their own.

Therefore, even Sunday night when he got home after midnight, he read his 10 pages. It was actually a little easier after a fast bike ride as he had coming home from Amanda’s. His mind was totally alert after he took a quick shower to rinse off. And, then, after about 10 pages, he was totally relaxed and ready to sleep on it.

Before his morning shower, he developed his to-do list for the day and called Wanda early. When she called him back, he was already researching molded fiberglass manufacturers. He wanted Monday to be a productive day because he was meeting Amanda for lunch on Tuesday, and he knew that he wasn’t going to rush through lunch, and hoped that she wouldn’t have to either.

He found a few molded fiberglass manufacturers on the internet. They were all on the West Coast, or close by. That would increase their shipping costs. He called Bruce Bradfuit, and asked him to talk to some of the guys he knew at North Sails. Perhaps they knew where some of the East Coast boat manufacturers got their hulls made. He was hoping they didn’t all make them on site….

And then, he did some more research in the other areas, not because he didn’t trust his mastermind group, but because he had read that President Clinton always did his own reading and his own research before he met with his advisors. Those interviewed after his presidency all said that he was able to ask incisive questions because he already had better than a general idea of the subject. To a man, they agreed that he expected them to have absolute mastery of their subject. If they didn’t have it, he postponed the meeting until they did. It was their opinion that he didn’t want to make decisions based on an incomplete understanding of any subject. Jake incorporated this philosophy, this thinking into his business.

On the other hand, many business writers, and authors of success or training books, advise that the successful entrepreneur does not need to know all the details of how something works. We don’t have to know how electricity works, to know what it does. We don’t have to know all the details of human psychology, but we do have to know how to put a team together and how to keep them motivated. Jake didn’t want to go overboard in his research, but he did believe that his team functioned better when he was slightly ahead of them.

He spent the day and part of the evening refining his idea of the module, and making calls to Charlie who was then working on the drawing. Once that was finished, he would transfer it to computer image blueprint using CAD.

But, Jake was also thinking about Tuesday. He had a fitful night’s rest until it was finally a reasonable time to get up. Napoleon complained that he would rather have another snuggle behind Jake’s knees, but he was an honorable cat and got up for his breakfast when Jake got up.

…………

They were to meet at 1pm. Amanda was at a client’s so Jake was meeting her at a nearby midtown restaurant she had suggested. She wasn’t sure exactly what time they would be finished, but she would be as close as she could be to 1 pm. He walked over to the subway station at 14th Street and Union Square. It was a cool day, with a comfortable breeze from the northwest, and perfect for a walk. People were always walking about in Manhattan. He often wondered what they did for a living that they could be out shopping or walking their dog in the late morning, but, not this morning. He didn’t wonder about anything but what would transpire with Amanda.

He found the restaurant in the 50’s off Madison Avenue. He had never been there before. This was a test. If it was a very expensive restaurant, it would tell him one thing; if it was a coffee shop, it would tell him another about how Amanda felt about herself. However, this was neither. It posted the menu (a sign that it was not ridiculously expensive) and it had a nice selection of food at reasonable prices, and it included a wine menu. He peeked inside. The tables had tablecloths and cloth napkins. Very nice for these prices! He was impressed.

“Window shopping or looking to buy?”

He smiled and turned at the sound of her voice. “Just rejoicing that there is still a restaurant in the Big Apple that remembers what it is to serve, provided that the food is good.”

“It’s a gem. I don’t share this with everyone, you know.”

“As soon as they get popular, the prices go up.”

“Let’s hurry in before the rush.”

He laughed and pulled to door open for her as she took off her sun glasses. She was wearing a cream colored pant suit, a blue silk blouse, and light brown heels. She carried a soft brown leather portfolio. She was tall in her heels, and her legs looked even longer than they did on the boat in shorts. Her pants seemed heavy, draping her foot, showing only the toe of her shoe. She acknowledged his assist with a smile and entered ahead of him.

She must have gotten the job. No one, not even a straight woman could reject her the way she looks today.

The Maitre’d couldn’t get to her fast enough. Jake almost laughed at the unusual sight of the slightly overweight man hurrying. He knew Amanda by name, and showed them to a private table in the corner, leaving them with menus.

Jake was not that interested in the menu, but left it open just in case. He looked over at Amanda, and marveled at the beauty of her eyes, her skin, her mouth, her hair, and the shape of her neck. And, she looked back.

“Are you able to share a bottle of wine?” he asked.

“I don’t have any afternoon appointments,” she answered, and passed him the wine menu.

He touched her hand as he took it from her, and forced himself to focus on the wines when what he wanted to do was to continue to gaze at her. He was just ex-Navy, but he had spent enough time at Bruce Bradfuit’s that he had some idea of decent wines. They had a selection of Long Island wines, and he spotted a couple of award winning reds that happened also to be more reasonably priced than the French or California wines. He made his selection and waited for her to decide on food.

He watched her delicate looking fingers holding the menu. I know how strong they are, but with her nails polished just so, you wouldn’t know that she has seasoned calluses that can hold on to a line when it’s wet and pulling. She looked up and smiled, and he noticed that when she did so her eyes kind of lit up. I wonder whether she does that on purpose or if it is involuntary. I could watch her forever. He smiled back.

“Do you know what you want?” he asked. I know what I want, but it’s not on the menu. And, I’m not sure that she wants it yet. Patience, Jake, patience.

“I can’t decide,” she answered softly, “between the chicken with mushrooms, or the salmon cooked in a raspberry sauce. Have you decided?”

“On food, no,” he answered. “I was waiting for you…. Both of those sound good. Have you had them here before?”

“No,” she answered. “I just discovered this place a couple of weeks ago when one of my clients recommended it. I did try the porterhouse steak and it was fabulous.”

“Hmm, and did you enjoy the meat close to the bone?” I like the teasing, and flirting. I wonder if she does too.”

“Immensely. Sometimes it’s not cooked enough, or there might be some gristle, but not in this case.”

I think she does. “The chef has a good meat supplier.”

“This bodes well for the chicken.”

“Do I know you well enough to ask how you like your steak?”

“You don’t think that it’s a little premature?”

Oh, good. She likes to play. “I do. That was why I asked.”

“Perhaps next week….”

The waiter came back and Jake ordered a Martha Clara red. Amanda decided on the salmon with new garlic roasted potatoes and Brussels sprouts, and Jake ordered the porterhouse with mashed potatoes and wax beans. He ordered it rare.

“All transactions should be so easy,” Amanda said when he left.

Jake wasn’t sure whether she was talking about her business meeting before lunch, or about them. “They could be, if everyone could be as honest about their intentions…. This is an easy deal because the waiter is here to get us what we want, and we are here to thoroughly enjoy it.”

“The meeting this morning was more complicated. I think they have their own power play going, and the work that I am doing for them has become the ping pong ball. Part of the leadership wants to expand and the other segment wants to consolidate.”

“How does this affect your work?” Jake asked. Jake was truly interested as this would, no doubt, affect his business some day.

“The campaign includes both new and old products. I understood that they wanted to invest the greater effort in promoting the new, but that’s not what came out of this morning’s meeting…. And, I don’t enjoy being corrected when I know that I was sent off in the wrong direction….”

The waiter arrived with their bottle of wine and opened it and poured Jake a sip. Jake tried it and nodded and the waiter left after pouring a full glass for each of them.

Continuing with their conversation, Jake said, “Of course not. No one took responsibility?”

“That is why I think it’s an ongoing power struggle. Last week one group was in charge, and this week, it’s the other team.”

“It can’t be easy being a freelancer….” He couldn’t help but notice her stressed, slightly sad expression. How could anyone be so heartless as to do this to her?

She reached over and took his hand, and he thought she squeezed it a bit. “I shouldn’t be complaining. It’s all in a days work. I love the work so I put up with the little bit of office politics that I must deal with. Meanwhile, you have quite a group of independent souls to harness. How do you do it?”

He laughed at the idea of harnessing these guys. “We’ve been a team since we were in the Navy, so we’re used to working with each other. I guess I can thank the USA for creating a working group out of us. Right now, we all have the same goal, to create a company. I don’t know how I will do when we have to add different guys with different loyalties and more personal goals.” She looks a little happier. I don’t want to talk business either, but at least we’re off of the subject that makes her look so miserable. The humility is new. Normally I have no problem with bragging a bit to a new girl. I would like to take credit for putting together this great team, but she’s going to work with us, so she’d find out that I was taking credit I didn’t deserve.

“I suspect that you are going to be a fine, really fine executive. You have a soft, sometimes democratic, touch, but you are clear about your goals. That goes a long way toward keeping a mastermind group moving forward together.”

That sounds about right – but how did she get that idea? I barely participated in the meeting once she was there in her green dress….I don’t want to sound like I’m fishing for compliments. Be disconcertingly honest. “I couldn’t see or hear anyone but you once you arrived. I have only a vague idea of what happened during that time, or what I said. I remember clearly what happened after you left, and I was not the leader you make me out to be. The team chose you, happily.” He smiled at her as he held up his wine glass. “And, on that note, I would like to say that I am very glad we were able to meet before the team meets again. And, I am looking forward to many more such meetings….”

She picked up her wine glass, and touched his. It made a pleasant sound as good wine glasses do. “And I.”

The waiter arrived with their food, and they gratefully sorted out the main courses and the vegetables. This restaurant, happily, seemed to be very generous with their side portions. They each organized their food, and then Amanda looked up, closed her eyes for a moment, and then began to taste it.

Was she giving a thanks or a blessing? I haven’t seen anyone do that since childhood. I have become a jaded New Yorker….

Amanda seemed pleased and smiled over her salmon. “The other night, I wanted you to meet Morgan for more than just his connection to Pre Paid Legal. He has also been a teacher to me. I have learned to take 100% responsibility for all that happens to me. I was actually confused by my meeting because I had cleaned on it beforehand, and expected another outcome…..”

Jake was thoroughly confused. “What do you mean you had ‘cleaned’ on it and how could you be 100% responsible for what’s done by people who work for another company?” If she wasn’t so gorgeous and such a success, I’d think she was a little Looney Toones.

She smiled, and he felt a melting sensation in the pit of his stomach. “It’s called Ho’oponopono, and it’s from Hawaii. Morgan is a master. I am relatively new but I will do my best to explain.”

Jake cut and ate some of steak. It was delicious, but he was more interested in Ho’oponopono.

Amanda continued. “It is a way to ‘clean’ yourself of programs that arise from memories, and thus return to the ‘zero’ state which was the state of being at the creation. We do this whenever there is conflict, or before a meeting where there is the potential for conflict, or whenever someone is sick and needs healing. We accept 100% responsibility for doing the cleaning, because if it appears in our life, then it is our responsibility to do what we can to correct the error.”

Jake smiled. This is new…. But, she is so wonderful; this might be something I really want to know about.

She continued, “We do it before we eat, for example, to insure that the food is happy and will give us good nutrition and health.”

“I don’t think,” he said, “that I understand what you mean by programs.”

“This is not easy if you haven’t been to training with Dr. Ihaleakala Hew Len. He explains how everything that touches you, that impacts you, or that someone brings to you, is your responsibility to fix. A problem or illness is the result of these negative programs that run from the painful memories in your unconscious.

Jake tried again, “and I still don’t understand how you fix these programs.”

“We fix the problem by cleaning away the unconscious programs. This brings us closer to the zero state, which is where we find the Divinity, the omnipotent, the higher power or whatever you would feel comfortable naming the original source. At that zero place, we find inspiration rather than a program. This was what Freud was seeking when he developed psychoanalysis. His idea of the ‘completely analyzed’ person was someone back at the zero state without interference from the unconscious.”

“We’re getting closer,” he said, “but what is it, exactly, that you do?”

She paused. “You, Jake, are a very practical man. Fortunately this is a simple system with specific steps. We use love, and ask the Divinity to help by transmuting the program that is blocking us at the moment. We simply say, ‘I love you; I’m sorry for anything I, or any of my ancestors might have done back to the creation to cause this pain. Please forgive me. Thank you. And it is done.’ It’s that simple. Repeat as necessary as they say, because there may be more than one cause or one program running.”

I am still confused about what this is, exactly, and why she thinks I need to hear about it. If Morgan and Amanda believe in it and use it, it might be helpful…. This was not the way I envisioned this lunch….. “I guess I see how it might work to solve a problem. I always believed in taking responsibility, although 100% responsibility for everything that comes into my life is more than I have done…. I suppose I’m wondering if you think that I have negative or destructive, or problematic programs running.”

She chuckled. “Everyone over the age of 4, is a field of weeds. Think of this. Your conscious brain is able to take in 15 bits of information per second. Meanwhile, your unconscious brain is taking in 15 million bits. The truth is we don’t have a clue as to what is going on because we miss so much. And, because of that, we don’t know where our ideas come from. Some of us are worse off than others, but we all need a lot of cleaning to get back to zero. Until you are at zero, you are limited by all your programs. Zero is a place of zero limits! Zero is where you’ll find Divinity. It’s worth cleaning to have access to direct inspiration rather than a program that is masquerading as inspiration.”

Jake was beginning to see how this could be helpful. “So, I can’t be sure whether my product is a bad idea coming from a program, or a good idea coming from inspiration?”

“You can’t be sure until you clean on it. Dr. Len often quotes a book User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down To Size, by science journalist Tor Norretranders who quotes Professor Benjamin Libet of the University of California at San Francisco. His studies show that decisions are made by the unconscious before consciousness makes them. And that the Intellect is not aware of this, believing that it decides.”

“This is a lot to take in.”

“I cleaned on our lunch, and was inspired to tell you about Ho’oponopono so the Divine thought it was time for you to hear about it. I don’t usually share it because I have only been practicing for a short while. If someone seems interested, I introduce them to Morgan, and let him be the teacher.”

“And, how long is a ‘short while’?”

“A little over a year; it’s enough for me to have seen wonderful changes, but not long enough to feel like or to be an expert.”

“And, what was it that convinced you that Ho’oponopono is real?”

“Dr. Hew Len is real. He cured an entire ward of the criminally insane in Hawaii and never met professionally with a single patient. He did it by reading their charts and cleaning on any feelings or impressions that came up in him. It’s documented. I read a letter by one of the Social Workers who described the changes at the hospital from a frightening, dangerous place, to a lovely, happy place. As she said afterwards, it felt clean.”

She continued, “And, you know that Morgan went to see your Will O’Neill when he was at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Well, he might not have made it if Morgan hadn’t been there to help. He stayed and cleaned until Will started to recover. I don’t know if the Doctors would give him the credit, but they were amazed at the speed of Will’s healing once it started.”

“This is a part that’s hard to understand. How can ‘cleaning programs’ help with physical healing? I can see how Morgan was connected to Will, but he wasn’t connected to Will’s injuries. How does the 100% responsibility come into play in this situation?”

“This is crucial to understand. Since Morgan was there to see Will’s injuries, Will was in Morgan’s mind, and Morgan had to clean on his programs that were responsible for Will’s situation. That was similar to Dr. Hew Len’s relationship to the inmates. He hadn’t had anything to do with them before they were patients at the hospital, but once he read their charts, they were in his mind and, as such, part of his consciousness. Therefore, anything that happened after that point was connected to Dr. Hew Len. He continually cleaned until all but two of the inmates were healed and released. Those two were transferred.”

Jake was beginning to see the enormity of this 100% responsibility. “So, if I were to clean on the business, would I state my love for the product, or for my team?”

“I think you could just state your love for Divinity, or Higher Power, or the Creator, and ask that any programs that would interfere with your business be transmuted, and then say thank you. You have a super conscious part of your brain, and that part will correct any message you send. If it needs some adjusting, it will take care of it. I ask that if there is anything I need to know, that Divinity will send me a message.”

“And, you get them?”

“Yes. They aren’t emails, but I get inspirations, as I did to share this information with you.”

“And, how did you know it was an inspiration and not a program?”

“I cleaned on it, and it didn’t go away or change.”

“So, I’m going to clean on my business now.”

“And, so will I since it is also part of my life, and my consciousness.”

“And, then can we finish our lunch?” I will also clean on the relationship, since that is another interest of mine….

“We can do it as we enjoy our lunch. It doesn’t take but a moment to send a thought.”

“I have many more questions.”

“I’ll try to answer them.”

“I can understand how a program, from memories, in the unconscious can affect one’s psychological state, and how clearing those programs will heal a mental illness, but how do you explain any connection to physical health?”

“Do you believe in atomic structure?”

“You mean atoms and neutrons and so forth? Of course.”

“Einstein said ‘matter can neither be created nor destroyed but only changed in form.’ We are all energy once you go to the components of the organs and then of the cells to the atoms. Once memories are transformed into thought/programs, it transmits energetically through the body as well as into the mind. Dr. Hew Len and his teacher, Morrnah Nalamaku Simeona, Kahuna Lapa’au who developed the modern Self Identity through Ho’oponopono, (or SITH) have helped many people to heal many physical problems through clearing. As they say, it doesn’t always work with a single clearing, because there are often multiple programs running that have to be cleared.”

“And, 100% responsibility means that they do the clearing in themselves, not the patient.”

“Exactly.” And, she looked at him as a teacher would look at a star student. Surprisingly, that feels good!

“… Because it is their programs that are at fault, not their patients” she added.

“I have understood what you were saying, but you know, this is a little bit of a stretch for me.” He couldn’t help but frown. To think that if the waiter trips, and I see it and have a feeling, then I need to clear my programs to fix it…. “I’ve thought for a long time, that doctors caused more problems than they cured….” He Morganled, but half-heartedly because it was now a more complicated joke than before.

Amanda seemed to be cleaning on it. She responded, “Dr. Hew Len is a psychologist, and he believes that those who go into his profession need to do a lot of clearing.” She smiled. “I suppose it is the same for doctors. His motto is CEEPORT, for clean, erase, erase and return back to port, or the null, or the Divinity.”

Jake had an inspiration. “So, if I go to a basketball game, and I do a lot of clearing, that should help my team?”

She laughed. “Absolutely. If you do a lot of clearing, it will not only help your team, it will help the world. Whenever we clear ourselves of a negative program, we have cleared it from the world. And, you don’t have to understand the problem or the program. In those cases, Dr. Hew Len says ‘I’m sorry’ first, and then ‘please help me to transmute this program’ and then, ‘Thank you; I love you.’ ”

Both were eating sporadically, but both took this as a pause when they could take a couple of bites. Jake took a sip of his wine, and looked into Amanda’s eyes. Her eyes are sparkling and her skin is so smooth and lightly tanned. Her lipstick was almost gone – from eating he supposed. I am glad she doesn’t use that permanent lipstick that doesn’t come off.

“One of the business writers I’ve read recently suggested that a new entrepreneur has to be willing to give up something. I have given up most of my social life, which now revolves almost totally around business contacts. I try not to eat alone, but only with business contacts. I don’t own a TV. I don’t know how this fits in with Ho’oponopono. It doesn’t seem that you would have to give anything up if you just cleaned on it. You would be able to eat sausage without danger of heart attack.”

She smiled. “It does sound like magic, doesn’t it? But, isn’t the other also, a belief in something that isn’t scientifically measurable? The idea that you have to be willing to make sacrifices is an indication that you are willing and able to focus on your dream. In the case of Ho’oponopono, we clean because the energy that we send to food is actually measurable. Thoughts now are measurable. We can look at a brain scan of activity and see the frequency of the activity. Perhaps the health of food is as much about our beliefs as about the food itself. Or, perhaps we can alter the structure of the food at an atomic level to make it more or less beneficial with our prayer/thought. Germans and Italians have eaten sausage culturally, and their incident record of heart attacks is not as high as that among Americans. The Japanese and Chinese eat a higher percentage of carbohydrates than we do, and they don’t have the obesity that you see here. The French and the English eat much more butter, cheese and cream with a higher fat content and they too have less obesity and fewer heart attacks.”

“So as long as I am focusing, and cleaning….”

“This is what I believe.”