Charles Breakfield & Rox Burkey – Is that a Thermonuclear Killer AI Virus in Your Pocket or Are You Happy to See me?

How can two such sweet, endearing people write world threatening fiction (and make it look easy)?

Tech Thriller Authors Charles Breakfield and Rox BurkeyWelcome one and all to another Northern Lights Books’ author interview plunge. Today’s guests are an enigma.

Not really, they write about enigmas. Specifically, the Enigma TechnoThriller series (there are nine books in the series as we publish this interview in early July 2018).

Known as Breakfield and Burkey, Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey have known each other professionally and as friends for mumbledy-mumbledy years. About mumbledy years ago they realized both enjoyed writing beyond their work-a-day requirements and decided to collaborate on things they knew from work. Rox specializes in corporate communications and Charles specializes in security, communications technology and anything with bits and bytes. Their work takes them across the globe and involves them in high level discussions most of us wouldn’t understand. Fortunately, they remove the unnecessary technospeak from their novels and leave in the thriller parts. Good stuff, that!

Please stand up and give Enigma Series authors Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey a big round of applause for taking part in our exciting adventure.

We get ideas but everything goes into a spreadsheet so we can work it out.

Rox Burkey’s Bio
Rox Burkey describes herself as an old hippie who’s been a technology professional for many years supporting corporations such as AT&T and Telefonica worldwide. She prefers the writing life but food and insurance, she feels, are good things. She still has colors in her hair but not flowers any more. Her goal is to get her writing to the point where she doesn’t have to work for corporate america.

Any time I learn something, that’s a good day.

Charles Breakfield’s Bio
Charles Breakfield doesn’t describe himself as an old hippie but as an expert in the security, networking, voice and anything with bits and bytes technology side. He enjoys writing, studying World War II history, travel, and cultural exchanges. He’s also a fan of wine tastings, wine-making, Harley riding, cooking extravaganzas, and woodworking.

Customer Experience is a good inroad into authoring. If you don’t give your readers a good experience you’re not going to sell books.

Rox and Charles and I talked about author cons, bitch-slapping people with idiot questions, writing as an exercise in customer experience, engaging readers, taking your day job and creating technothrillers out of it, women’s groups, training people to be influencers, bookreading clubs as information sources, putting on a cape when you go to work, using beta readers and editors, having family as editors, reading like an adversary, dining on three masted clipper ships and having fun with Japanese students.

Sometimes people come up to us at author cons to test us and see if we really know what we’re talking about.

You can find links to Charles’ and Rox’s books on the right or at the bottom of this post (depending on your device). You’ll also find links to their sites underneath the video.

Sometimes I’ll wake up with a great idea and send it over to Rox and get an IM back, “What were you thinking?”

The Interview

We play literary ping pong.

Charles Breakfield and Rox Burkey’s Links
The Enigma website
Subscribe to their YouTube channel
Friend and follow them on Facebook and Twitter
Charles Breakfield on Amazon and Rox Burkey on Amazon
ENIGMA book series

An excerpt from Breakfield and Burkey’s The Enigma Gamers

The Enigma Gamers – A CATS Tale

By: Breakfield and Burkey

Since time immemorial human beings have gambled things of value on the
outcome of pending events. This desire to play and compete with a bet on
the outcome of some event has followed us to the present day. Here in the
21st century it has become a digital activity and has earned the
common designation gamification. It is suggested that this is a
harmless quest to collect points and also use it in an easy way for people
to learn. However, like everything on the digital landscape now becoming
the Internet of Things, machines can now interact with machines to the
misery of us all. Not everything that results from the gamification of our
digital world is always to our benefit. .

…The Enigma Chronicles

Old definition

Gamers \’gāmers\ n: participants in a rules-based contest for a stake in
the outcome; see amusement

New definition

GAMERS (Generally Ambiguously Motivated Exercises for Rewarding Scoundrels)

Locations and Primary Cast Members:


Julie (JAC Rancowski) Rodríguez – Part owner in the CATS Team with her

Juan Rodriguez

Eilla Zan (EZ) Marshall (CATS operation/communication headquarters in

Supported by R-Group staff Quip, ICABOD, Wolfgang, and Otto

Australian Mines Consortium

George Jones, member of the CATS team

McLaren, operations duty manager for the consortium

Mohawk, operations chief for the consortium

Tina, Mohawk’s girlfriend

Hoyt, McLaren’s nephew

Barcelona, Spain
– (Smart City)

Brayson Morris, member of the CATS team

Baby Perez, Mayor of Barcelona

Constellation Stuff
– The Store to the Planet (somewhere in one of the US Midwest States)

Summit Hayes, member of the CATS team

Marvin Oile, truck driver for the Constellation Stores

Massoud Mostafavi, head guard at the Constellation distribution center

Marco, guard at the Constellation distribution center

David, guard at the Constellation distribution center

Fast Flyers
– (US Airline)

Mercedes Field, member of the CATS team

Jim Hughes, member of a US three letter agency

The Sean, Sean Riley, lead negotiator for Fast Flyers Management

Chuck Wood, lead labor negotiator for Fast Flyers Union Team

Macau, China
– (Hotel, Casino)

Ernesto Gleen, member of the CATS team

Frieda, Jamie’s girlfriend, and computer operations knowledgeable

Jamie, roamer, gambler, risk taker, and programmer

Chairman Chang, silent owner in the Macau casino and high placed Chinese

Won and Ton, wards of Chairman Chang

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
– (E911)

Tyler Hebert, member of the CATS team

Detective Cormorant, Como, assigned to work with Tyler on city problems

Mayor Barker, Pittsburg mayor that brought in the CATS team

Russian Interests
– (Believed to be in a hardened data bunker under the Kremlin in Moscow)

Dmitry Vasnev, Russian Minister of Information Propagation, war hero

Konstantin Grankin, Longtime assistant and technology support for Dmitry

Chapter 1 –
So far and yet so very near

The drone of the commercial aircraft was unmistakable, though First Class
was undeniably quieter than the Coach seats behind the engines.
Conversations were muted, or passengers dozed. The distinctive aromatic
smell of heated nuts wafted from the forward galley. The aircraft had
almost reached the cruising altitude that would allow comfort services to
begin. They were on the last leg of the long flight from Zurich to Macau.
Juan had grumbled about taking a trip so far away, but Julie had sold him
with her vivid description of the small peninsula across the Pearl River
Delta from Hong Kong. As Portuguese overseas territory until 1999, it
reflected an extraordinary mix of Portuguese and Chinese influences. What
seemed to put the glint in Juan’s eye was its nickname, the Las Vegas of Asia.

Macau was one of Julie’s favorite places, but she had never gone for
pleasure, only for work purposes. Julie, also known as JAC or Cyber
Assassin Julie at work, had originally visited the city to meet with Ling
Po. Julie had been hooked the first time she walked over the beautiful
black sand on Hac Sa Beach with her thick light brown hair ruffled by the
breeze. Her legs, which made up most of her 1.7 meters, gobbled up the sand
as she’d traveled to her destination.

Since then, Julie had maintained her overall agility with the martial arts
training sessions with Juan and chasing after their twins. That seemed a
lifetime ago. Even now, she carried almost no fat on her supple body, just
the way Juan liked it. She was delighted with their current lifestyles even
though it had some elements of risk in their professional endeavors.

So much had happened since the last trip she’d made to Macau. It felt as if
she were looking through an entirely different lens. She and Juan had
started their own business, known as the Cyber Assassin Technology Services
or CATS team, shortly after they were married. Their business was supported
by her family’s business yet thrived nicely on its own merit. She leaned
back into her seat to relax as the fragments of the history and in-between
events went through her mind.

Julie, adopted as a baby, had grown up as part of a family which was part
of an ongoing business formed during World War II that now stretched around
the world. The business, which was referred to by the family and close
associates as the R-Group, had interests in real estate, finance,
technology, security, and information resources. Their clientele were both
private elite families, initially serviced post-World War II, and public
entities including Interpol and the intelligence agencies of various
countries. The primary pillars of the R-Group were to uphold the rights of
the individuals or governments that stood for freedom and justice.

Originally, the family founders, three daring young men, had taken a copy
of the Enigma Machine. These intelligent and resourceful men had joined
their skills to slightly modify the device and then had used it to
undermine the German Nazis through encryption of information shared in just
the right places. Though many of the core family members had changed over
the years, the foundational beliefs of the operations had not. Their span
of power and influence had increased though much of the operation was only
known within the family business.

Juan and Julie had met during an R-Group assignment where Julie had worked
to locate an heiress, Lara Bernardes. Lara, the head of a now successful
fashion house of Brazil, was also the love of Juan’s brother, Carlos. Julie
had provided both Juan and Carlos with new identities at the end of that
assignment, though he had mightily protested erasure of his past.

Juan, the crazy flyboy, had captured Julie’s heart with his quick wit and
ability to unconditionally love her. She knew she was in love with Juan
when she had beat him in a martial arts challenge at a gym. He told great
stories, kept his cool under pressure, loved their twin children, and was
deliciously passionate.

Julie glanced over to her resting partner. His thick ebony hair was a nice
topping to his nearly 1.83 meters of rippling muscles and clean-shaven
face. When he smiled, she had no doubts that he adored her. Julie was known
for her never ending smile and leveraged it often with her delightful male,
as well as in some undercover roles. As if aware of her stare, Juan’s hand
reached over and gently cradled her hand in his with a slight smile
appearing on his generous lips. If they weren’t on a commercial flight with
people all around, she might have started something, hoping Juan would
finish it.

Juan rested comfortably against the window and almost dozed, though he was
aware of his surroundings. It was odd to be flying somewhere and not
piloting the aircraft. The feeling of Julie’s hand in his, warm and soft,
was not exactly the scenario he had been thinking about, but it would do
until they reached the resort. Julie had told him that the resort offered
more private and scenic rooms than the large, over-crowded casino hotel.
But a promise to go and check out the gambling at some point was fine with
him. Juan liked to gamble a bit and had even brought some of his reserves
from his Pre-Julie Mexico investments to play, thus presenting no risk to
their business. The business was doing well, and Juan knew that Julie’s
family had money, but it was something they were building together for
their family dynasty.

Juan missed the twins, Gracie and Juan Jr., with their constant babbling
and laughter. Regardless, he was going to make the most of four days alone
with his beautiful wife, partner, and love of his heart, right next to him
where she belonged. He opened his eyes at the sounds of services beginning,
and Julie rewarded him with one of her megawatt smiles. He toasted them
when their wine was served and knew he was very lucky to have her.

Julie and Juan were laughing while they deplaned, finally at their
destination. Their driver was there with the correct placard on display as
they walked outside. Julie’s father, Otto, who was enjoying the time with
his grandchildren almost as much as her mother, Haddy, had insisted they
have a driver on call so they could go anywhere, anytime without needing to
worry about the vehicle itself. It had been his gift for them to enjoy.

Otto, as one of the primary heads of the R-Group, rarely took time off, but
the twins seemed to somehow make it easier to set aside those
responsibilities. Maude was the children’s full time governess, but Haddy
and Otto insisted on staying to enjoy Gracie and Juan Jr. in peace. Their
time with the twins was also being referred to as the Grand Spoiling Time.
Julie chuckled as her fruit phone indicated another text message with
likely a candid photo arrival. Her giggles erupted anew as she showed the
picture to Juan, and he laughed too.

Their driver, Chen Lee, smiled as he greeted them and proceeded to tell
them, in his perfect English, that his name meant morning. His non-stop
oration included the points-of-interest they drove past, things he liked,
his family, and how much he approved of their choice of the beach front
villa that afforded privacy. Privacy and seclusion was expensive and
limited in Macau. Chen was lean and a bit shorter than Julie but had a
welcoming smile and a twinkle in his dark eyes that reminded Julie of
espresso. Chen boasted about his twelve children, and Juan privately
remarked that working must be the only time Chen was able to speak, so Chen
obviously made the most of it. After delivering them to their villa and
making certain the arrangements were in place, Chen indicated he would pick
them up that evening for dinner. At their request he promised to provide
several options for after-dinner activities.

Their room was magnificent! The floor to ceiling windows dominated the two
sides reaching into the corner with a breathtaking view of the water and a
view of the city. Quiet music was in the air but gentle like a breeze. The
furniture was sparse with the oversized bed, covered in white and ivory
silk covers and overflowing with huge pillows, as the dominating feature.
Bold-colored silk flowers offset the whites and ivories of the interior and
bedding. The bathroom contained a shower as well as a four-person, sunken
Jacuzzi with a private window view toward the sea. Everything was elegant
and yet seemed practical to a fault.

Juan called for room service while Julie made quick work of unpacking and
settling into the luxurious suite. Room service had already arrived when
Julie emerged from the bathroom. She was comfortably garbed in the
almost-bikini that perfectly matched the blue in her sapphire and diamond
wedding ring. Ahead of where she walked, she spread fairies of light across
the room as the sun caught the surfaces of her ring.

Juan leered at her, grinned and then groaned, “My darling, if you keep
dressing like that we will never see more of Macau than this room.”

Julie wagged a finger toward Juan as she firmly explained, “Juan, we need
to establish some rules. I want to go curl my toes in the black sand and
perhaps bring back just a little for our kids. I want to swim with you in
the South China Sea and enjoy all the historical sites with you.” Then she
insisted, “Juan, you need to behave.”

He handed her a glass of champagne and raised his to toast to them both.
Juan grinned then replied, “Sweetheart, it is far too late to start trying
to establish rules. I will of course behave as your servant and lover. All
your wants will be fulfilled as will mine. Then, I promise, we will see
about the sights on your list.”

He pulled her close as they sipped the wine. The glasses were magically
resting on the table empty as Julie found herself horizontal on the giant
bed with Juan leaning over her with a familiar look of passion burning in
his eyes.

“We have not been alone in far too long, my beautiful wife.” Running his
hands over her skin that somehow had lost the minor inconveniences of the
bikini, he continued, “Your skin is so soft, so smooth, and well, so

Juan kissed her lips and every available inch of her body, while she
returned the kisses and the touches, lost in the wonder of the magic they
shared. She had never felt as much heat or ardent pleasure as she did when
he had her in his arms. Juan knew all the right places to touch and lick
until she begged for him to get closer and deeper.

“Sweet Mercy,” he groused as her inner thigh muscles clamped down on him as
she pushed her hips up against his to continue the pleasure, “why did I
wait so long to finish.”

Another female might have been insulted at the comments had she not known,
heart and soul, that to this point he had only considered her fulfillment
and her pleasure. He had repeatedly given her everything she wanted and
needed. He cared about her satisfaction in a way that was absolute until
the precise moment when it shifted to being about him. He allowed her to be
on top and drive him to the end of the precipice as he pulled her bottom
into him, growing bigger and harder with each thrust until they both felt
as if they were launched into space and flying. Afterward they tumbled as
an entwined pair and drifted into a soft slumber after their exhausting

Minutes or hours later, Julie murmured, “We really need to see the sights
while we are here.”

Juan shifted them slightly and gripped her a bit closer as he whispered,
“From my perspective, the sights are perfect from here.”

Chapter 2 –
Rambling Gambler

Frieda questioned, “So what do you want to do? The communications
infrastructure is crumbling, plus we need more personnel and sizeable
upgrades just to keep things running!”

Jamie looked at her rather dispassionately and remarked, “Just tell them
this is what we need. What’s the big deal?”

Frieda and Jamie were certainly an unlikely pair. He was blond-haired and
blue-eyed, but she was a dark haired beauty with her stoic, logical German
temperament that often clashed with his romanticized Irish temper. When her
temper flared, her cheeks got rosy and her curls seemed as if they were on
springs. When he was annoyed or angry, he held his temper in check until
the last possible moment and then he bellowed. She had seen that once and
it wasn’t pretty.

They lived together in a poor excuse for an apartment with the only saving
grace being that it was furnished. Their knowledge of technology
complemented one another with her specialty in hardware, networks, and
high-end databases and his in programming, especially cowboy style. He had
the inbred flair for the blarney with a side of manipulation.

This job had been advertised as high-paying and filled with bonuses for
making or beating deadlines. To date, it had been well below even the most
modest expectations. Both of them were tired of the frustrating situations
they faced daily. Lousy work and no extra money did not a happy couple

Becoming really annoyed with his illogical approach, she angrily countered,
“Because they will argue the cost. Then they’ll tell me to deal with it and
stop asking for more funding! We have a major technology implementation
sunk into this wretched continent, and they won’t listen to spending any
more, for anything! This is the once-and-done bunch when it comes to WAN
communications infrastructure. I get so mad at them, sometimes I could just

He sighed and replied, “Frieda, why do we always have to have this same
discussion? Come on, get dressed, and let’s go fix this.”

She stared at him incredulously and exclaimed, “Jamie! What are you talking
about? Didn’t you hear what I just said? They don’t listen and then they
don’t spend! THEN they complain about the poor service! They will dock our
pay because they cannot dock the bonus we won’t earn.”

Oblivious to her remarks, he asked, “How much do you need again?”

Not completely comprehending the situation, she answered, “Uh, fourteen
point five million Euros. But I have already….”

Jamie clucked his tongue then suggested, “Okay. Let’s go see the finance
group of Ebenezer and Scrooge so we can get the necessaries for your
problem, shall we?”

Jamie was a high-stakes gambler with an unjustified self-confidence that
always seemed to court disaster. One time he’d rounded up several investors
to buy up a toilet paper manufacturer that had seen better days. He figured
that the price was right, and that with his marketing prowess, they could
turn the company into a dominant player in the toilet paper manufacturing
business. Unfortunately, his marketing instincts were wrong, and the
company imploded before it could get off the ground.

The truth was no one from the wholesaler down to the retail buyer could
accept a product based on a design intent called Break on through to the Other Side regardless of the old rock song
of the same name being used in the commercial messaging. Toilet Paper
labeled Break on through to the Other Side was simply a marketing
nightmare on steroids. The customers avoided the product in droves.

Jamie had what was known as the Reverse Midas Touch in his
endeavors, but it never seemed to bother him when he launched into his next
con game. Frieda had been a part of his world for a couple of years now. He
seemed to make strides and get out of situations only to turn around and
step into a bigger puddle of muck.

She numbly followed him into the manager’s office where Jamie launched his
verbal assault. “Which one of you race car drivers has this Formula 1 car
stuck in second gear?”

The finance manager looked up from his computer, somewhat puzzled, then
asked, “Whadda you two want? If it costs anything, the answer is no. Unless
you are here to deposit money, you can leave now.”

As usual, the finance manager retrieved the parked #2 regular pencil from
behind his ear as if he was going to write down something, even though
everything he did was on his computer keyboard. The office was cluttered,
dusty, and screamed for a good cleaning. Rather than being dressed for
success, the finance manager was a perfect match for the office décor of
messy and shaggy right down to the hair that he combed over from the back
to minimize the reflection from his shiny scalp.

Jamie, as close to disinterested in the manager as possible, replied in a
very tired voice, “We are here to advise you that you need to pony up 38.5
million Euro to stay in business here. I am ordering this gear and
consulting services to be shipped in for installation the week after next.
Are you interested in having it installed or not?”

Jamie tossed a handwritten list of gear on a piece of paper at him that
Frieda had hastily assembled during the walk over to this office. In
Jamie’s mind the desk reflected the disorganization of the user, which made
this plan easier. A wobbly desk, a dusty ten-key adding machine with
mountains of paper flowing out in ribbons behind it, and a tired looking
computer with a smaller screen than the old man’s eyes needed.

After his chuckling subsided, the finance manager focused a puzzled
expression at Jamie and asked, “Has the jungle fried your brain? I can’t
begin to authorize that kind of expenditure! If you have really ordered
that gear, you’d better find a way to cancel it, or you’re fired! Then
after I fire you, I’ll cancel the order and extract the order cancelation
fees from your last check.

“What kind of clown are you anyway? No one approved any expenditure of that
size. You’re lucky I let you order your own printer cartridges and paper!”

Jamie looked at him hard, shook his head, and with a sour look on his face
informed Frieda, “You’re right, sweetie, he’s sharp as a soccer ball.”

Then after a moment of silence, Jamie turned toward the finance manager.
Using slow carefully-enunciated speech, he explained, “No, genius, you
don’t get it! If you don’t buy it, I will take it to the competition, and
we’ll set it up for their entrance into the market. Haven’t you noticed all
the free goods that have been circulating around in the area? While you
have been squeezing pennies, the competition has been dropping serious
folding money to soften the market up for a switch to the greener pastures
of your competition. You seriously didn’t think you guys would be the only
game in town indefinitely, did you?”

Now starting to panic slightly, the finance manager responded, “We simply
cannot spend that kind of money! We must fight for market share another
way! We intend to stay in Africa, and no one is going to push us out by
giving some bars of soap to the natives.”

Jamie looked at Frieda and straight-faced snorted. “See, I told you he was
dumber than he looked.”

He turned his head back to the finance manager and flatly stated, “Oh wow,
slow down, lightning! We are not talking about spending our own money! And
we are not talking about spending only for this state in Africa. Your
competitors are coming in to offer them the expertise if THEY pony up the
money. And by THEY, I mean all the surrounding African states as well. You
think so small! That’s why you’ll fail.”

The finance manager stared blankly, unable to comprehend, until Jamie
sighed again and clarified, “WE don’t write the checks, they write the
checks! We get all the surrounding states to come into the game because we
can’t operate in a vacuum. We invite them in on the game, and we get them
to pony up as well. No one will refuse because no one wants their country
left behind. Are you beginning to see or do we also need to get your
glasses checked?”

After a long pause the finance manager replied, “Yes, Mr. Rafferty. I now
begin to see. We invest, but we use their monies. You said the gear is
coming in two weeks?”

Jamie smiled and asked, “Yes, how do you want it invoiced? My alternate
client is standing by, in the event you don’t want it. In fact, I’m not
quite sure I know what I’m going to tell them if you actually use your
never used #2 pencil to approve the purchase.”

The finance manager nodded and agreed, “We’ll take it. Make sure your team
gets it deployed as soon as possible.”

Jamie grinned and remarked, “Actually, it will go quite slowly since we
will be training the local IT students on its installation and operation.
No local politician would dare to cross us, because we would have to lay
the students off if we’re ejected from this market. Then they would lose
voters. Remember, invest locally and your competitors will struggle to
displace you. Am I right?”

The finance manager almost smiled as he responded, “About the time I think
you two have outlived your usefulness, you pop up with something to help
extend your contract.”

Outside the finance manager’s office, Jamie smiled at the bewildered Frieda
and queried, “See how easy it is to steer the weak-minded? Of course they
do have to be greedy. But to make this look really convincing, we should
approach the competition to see if we can get a better deal.

“However, before we do that, I would like to get some more wine, get you
back out of your clothes, and see what kind of erotic calisthenics can be
executed in your hammock. But, this time, no falling out as we rotate

Frieda smirked as she responded, “So you’re going to let me participate in
the pole vault game this time instead of doing all the work yourself?
That’s mighty big of you! …Well, not really.”

Jamie clucked his tongue in mock annoyance with the disparaging comment and
then threatened, “Just wait until I get you naked, sweetie!”


They had returned to their humble accommodations. Frieda had remarked she
was going to change into something more comfortable as she walked into the
adjoining bedroom. About that time, Jamie saw the incoming email he had
been waiting for pop into his PC screen. He grinned broadly as he read the
awaited response. Straining to contain his exuberance, he loudly stated,
“Hah! They took the bait! I mean, my career destination is now on target!
Pack our bags, babe! We are heading to China and our newest gig!”

Frieda’s mouth hung open slightly in disbelief as she watched Jamie doing
his happy dance around their grimy living quarters. Finally, shrugging off
her dumbfounded state she reminded, “We’re under contract here, my
soon-to-be-in-jail-for-fraud, aka my humping-buddy. We haven’t saved
anything to just pick up and leave this cesspool that has been downgraded
from its earlier status in the travel brochures as the Armpit of Africa.
You just conned the finance dweeb of this disgusting manufacturer of
personal hygiene products for animals and larger primates with a fabricated
story that rivals the Wall Street financial derivatives debacle of 2008.
None of that now matters because you think we are leaving for China instead
of jail! By the way, where in China? I don’t speak Chinese and neither do
you as far as I know.”

Jamie, still elated that his dream-scheme was unfolding the way he needed
it to, waltzed over to Frieda. While smiling tenderly, he pushed her dark
hair behind her ear. He then moved his head over to whisper in her ear but
instead began teasing her ear with his tongue while his right hand moved to
begin caressing her breast. He would have undone her blouse if her
indignation hadn’t kicked in, prompting her to pull away.

After a few retreating steps were made, she rebuked, “So it’s going to be
like the last time, right? Me desperately trying to keep us out of jail,
and you ready to drop and run to the next gambling exercise. Jamie, I can’t
ask my folks for more money to underwrite this lifestyle! Don’t we ever get
to do what I want? Will there ever be a time when we can just have a normal
life? Is this just one big con game for you? Is that all I am as well?”

Jamie, always the gambler, offered, “If you don’t want to go, you don’t
have to. After all, apparently all I am is your humping-buddy anyway.
Surely someone as pretty as you can get that anywhere.

“Look, Frieda, I don’t have anything but my wits to leverage. I’ve taken
all these backwater IT jobs that no one would take to learn just one thing.
I wanted to know how computers communicate, how information flows, and most
importantly how to profit from that knowledge. Not to do it for the rest of
my life, but how to win at their game.

“This job in China is exactly where the payoff comes in. I will be the lead
IT engineer in a fully automated gambling casino, in what is probably the
newest version of the old Wild West. Since this part of China is similar to
Hong Kong, English is spoken as well as Chinese and Portuguese. I need to
do this. If you want to go with me, I promise you will be wearing diamonds
as big as horse turds before I’m through. Are you with me?”

Frieda could feel the old con game being staged again with her emotions
simultaneously pulling for and pushing her away from the blue-skies offer.
How many times had he taken her along for his roll-of-the-dice
only to lose everything except the clothes they wore? She fought the tears
and the tidal wave of anger, but it boiled down to only one of two choices.
Each time he promised something better, and every time they were the

She really wanted to go home to start over in a normal life. Trouble was,
she wanted him to go too! He simply wasn’t the reliable, home by five for
dinner, kind of male. She knew this would be like the last time, and the
next gig he signed on for would be like the one previous. She told herself
that he was the one with the gambling problem, but if that were true, then
why couldn’t she just leave? The tears streamed down her face as she made
up her mind on what her future was going to be.

In that short moment of thought, Frieda stared at Jamie for a few minutes
and then slapped him hard across the face.

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People we don’t like or people we want to get even with? They get whacked in our books.


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