Chapter 10 How I Operate, How I Win

Bash Banks’ POV:

(some language)

It’s been two weeks since I met up with Rico at Georgio’s. I had agreed to come on board and be part of whatever plan he was devising for Jupiter. I thought something would’ve happened by now, but I’ve had no indication of the doom and gloom of Jupiter’s demise thus far.

The company status quo continues. The pissy whiny liberal arts brats with their third rate degrees, but just so happened to land a job in tech because daddy was in the same country club with the VP. The insufferable hipsters and neckbeards who spent too many years in their mothers’ basements with delusions that they were worth more than the package of condoms their parents should have used because they can write a few lines of code.

A sea of ass-kissers surrounded me, all lined up with their lips out ready for Timothy to unbutton his dockers and bend over. Lather on the chapstick boys, because all that butt licking you’re doing is going to give you blisters.

What was worse than anything, my team, Tim’s team moved to another level in the building. What I liked about my old space was that our area was small, now we shared a floor with some of the analysts and other developers who were working on Cypher and other applications. Not only was I reporting directly to Tim’s incompetent ass, but I also had to put up with a bunch of imbeciles who greeted me each morning with some word or phrase black people stopped using six months ago, that they just looked up on Urban Dictionary.

Charles Ridley told me one morning when I came in that my blazer/trouser combo was “on fleek.” I guess that was meant to impress me. I don’t even pretend to like these muthafuckas. He knew he messed up by my “get the fuck out my face before I sock you in it” expression and hasn’t tried that shit again.

I was sitting at my desk, not getting much work done. My mind was preoccupied with this Rico deal and how much I utterly loathed coming here each day. On top of that, I’ve been working overtime like crazy, a lot of us has. I’ve barely had a social life over the last couple of weeks.
I noticed it had gotten quiet in my area.

“Hey Bash, we’re waiting on you!” called Charles.

I turned around in my chair and glanced at my watch. Shit, it was time for our weekly meeting with Tim in his new supersized cubicle, complete with a small glass table and four hard plastic Ikea worthy chairs.

I got up and made the short walk to the opposite side of our office where Tim now sits.

I didn’t bother to apologize for my tardiness and plumped down in my seat across from Tim.

“Bash, how’s it going?” asked Tim in his annoying cheerful too early in the morning way. His bright blue eyes crinkled in the corners as his smile stretched from ear to ear.

I nodded. “Fine.” I didn’t offer anything more than that. I was over this already, and I had only been here less than two hours.
I listened for the next fifteen minutes while Tim droned on about how honored he was to be part of such a great team made up of the brightest minds at Jupiter. Charles, Leo, and Adam hung onto every word and vigorously nodded their heads; probably in the same rhythmic motion if Tim were to pull out his tiny pecker and told them to suck it.

Eventually, Tim got out his own ass, and we began to discuss some of the bug issues with the Cypher framework. The more the conversation went on and the questions Tim asked, the more I realized he really didn’t know shit about the barest of essentials when it came to our top application. I looked at Charles, Leo, and Adam and wondered if they were thinking the same thing. From the robotic Pavlovian dogs’ looks of admiration on their faces, it didn’t seem so. If they thought what I was, they were doing an excellent job of covering it up.

I didn’t volunteer anything in the meeting, no input, even when asked. I had nothing to say. Oh, I could definitely say a lot, but it wasn’t worth the hassle. The meeting eventually concluded, and I was the first one up and headed toward my desk. It was still too early for lunch. I thought about calling GG and seeing if she wanted to meet me across the street at noon, but I most likely wouldn’t have time. I would probably end up eating at my desk again while I attempted to get through my bug reports as I had not touched them all day.

All I could do right now was wait and hope on Rico. Once Jupiter goes down like the Titanic, I’ll have my black ass on the first lifeboat out of here.

******************

My communication with Rico had been scarce at best. He advised it was best to limit our communication. I heard my phone ring in the middle of the night. It was after one. I knew Rico kept late hours on the weekend, but his call was most unexpected. I had to pretend that I wasn’t dead to the world just thirty seconds before his call. GG, who was sleeping next to me softly murmured and turned over, but she didn’t completely wake up.

Rico said that the information I had provided him with had been helpful, but it wasn’t enough for the type of “leverage” he needed. Rico hasn’t specified what he needed; he only says “everything.” Well, when it comes to an application like Cypher “everything” is an inclusive term, and that includes a lot. I had a feeling Rico was testing me yet again to see if I would pull through without him having to goad me in the right direction. He indicated that the sensitive information that was most imperative was privy only to those above my pay grade.

Yes, I do have access to internal and protected intellectual property and information, source code, and bugs but it was limited. I didn’t have firsthand knowledge about the more severe bugs and stabilization efforts for the application being addressed by the senior developers and upper management.

What I needed was access to the very foundation of Cypher’s mainframe; not just it’s vulnerabilities. It’s important to know how well it would do once it goes to market, if it will be readily accessible for the majority of users on various operating system platforms and if Cypher could easily be integrated with other applications. Unfortunately, even though I have more education, general knowledge, and I know what the fuck I’m doing, Tim as a senior developer was privy to that information.

The last thing Rico said to me was “I’ll get what I need somewhere, somehow. It would be most beneficial for you if you obtain that information for me. Because if I have to take other avenues, something, I don’t want to do after you agreed to come aboard, well that’s me doing your work for you. Yes, there is a way to get the intel you’ve yet to provide. But I don’t want to go that route, because it means I’ll have to call in a favor and it gives that person a degree of leverage over me, and that’s not how I operate; that’s not how I win.

I hated to admit that Rico’s call had left me a bit restless and I didn’t get much sleep after that. Thankfully it was Saturday. Jupiter wanted everyone to work this weekend, but I’ve already been working sixty hour weeks, and I wasn’t in the mindset to deal with those fuckers on a Saturday. I had to figure something out to get Rico what he needed, and it had to be soon.

********************

I was at New Crest City Center Galleria with GG. After our initial hookup, I wasn’t sure where this “thing” was going to go. I hadn’t been in a committed relationship in years, and I enjoyed the hassle-free lifestyle of not being tied down to one woman. There was something about GG that made me forget all of that and I wanted to explore whatever was between us.

Except for the last two weeks and me working sixty hours, she and I have spent practically every day together. GG either comes over and spends the night, or I stay at her place. We occasionally meet for lunch since our buildings are next to each other downtown. Often we grab drinks together in the same bar we first met. Now those same Bobby Pedigrees get sick when they see her with me. I love seeing the self-righteous, smug look fall off their ugly ass faces. Giavanna was easily the most beautiful woman who worked in the area, and she’s truly the most beautiful woman I’ve met. If I were Bobby and Chad, I would be mad too.

I bemoaned my work dilemma to GG. She agreed that it wasn’t right for me to continue to get passed over for promotion after promotion, but she’s claimed in the past that I should be more open to gaining “work friends.”

GG didn’t know about the deal I made with Rico. She knew I wasn’t happy at Jupiter. I wouldn’t tell her anything about it until it was assured, as of yet, I had no idea where Rico and his partners were at regarding taking the company.

“It’s hard to get ahead in that environment. The guy I report to directly is a complete idiot,” I said. We quietly walked through the gallery. The courtyard of the City Center was full of people at tables, going into the shops and bars, and eating at outside restaurants. GG was quiet and just listened as I went on about my most recent meeting with Tim and our team.

“He doesn’t know some of the basic processes we have implemented, yet he has more access than I do, and he’s getting paid more than me,” I complained.

“I know, it isn’t right. But Bash, we’ve talked about this before. I know how much you hate your co-workers, I could tell you didn’t think too highly of them the first time I saw you with them at the bar. And if I, a stranger could pick up vibes, I’m sure the people you work with every day can pick it up too. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar,” said GG. She leaned in a bit and stroked my arm. I guided her toward a bench near the water fountain gardens.

“What you have to understand baby, is that I’m a black man. Things work differently for me than they do for you and the men in the positions of power.”

“How so?” she asked. We stopped for a moment, and I turned to look at her. “Look, it doesn’t matter that I have degrees from UPenn and MIT. I already have a strike against me because of the color of my skin,” I replied.

“And what, you don’t think I face discrimination as an ethnically mixed Brazilian? Most of the people I work with, including the women think of me as some exotic beauty from a third world country. Either they think I’m some sex freak who spent her days lying around naked on Ipanema Beach or they think we all live in Favelas. Nevermind that my family was rich in Brazil and my parents still have money and were successful when we moved here,” sighed GG.

I never really thought of her as a victim of discrimination. Misogyny was a given, especially in her line of work as a financial analyst. Even still, GG had the complexion for protection. She wasn’t a blue-blooded blonde hair all-American girl, but she had it easier than women like my mom and sisters.

“Look, Bash, I’m not saying your feelings aren’t validated, I know how intelligent and talented you are. The truth of the matter is, in the corporate world, you have to play by the rules until you’re in a position to change the rules. Don’t burn bridges. Now, from what I’ve seen Tim seems very likable even you said he wasn’t as bad as some of the ass-lickers in the company. He is your lead now, and he likes you. Why not extend an olive branch? What’s the harm in making new friends in higher places? You’re going to have to deal with Tim anyway, might as well get all you can out of what could be a beneficial friendship for you,” advised GG.


I opened my mouth in protest and remembered my brief conversation with Rico. As much as I hated to have to do it, I would have to get close to Tim. He’s very trusting and honest, but naive. He’ll most likely begin revealing things to me I would otherwise not have the privilege of knowing.

Okay, I will do it GG’s way, and I’ll extend that olive branch. I’ll do whatever I have to complete my mission. The Jupiter train was nearing a full stop, and I wanted to make my transition to something of greater importance.

*******************

The following weekend, I did something I never thought I’d do; I invited Tim and his girlfriend, Cheyanne out for lunch with GG and I.

It was bad enough I had to deal with Tim’s over the top cheery attitude at work, now I had to spend a portion of my Saturday with him. My weekends were my time to get away from the shit Tim and everyone else at work represented. Me, allowing him into my personal time and space wasn’t something I was eager to do. But I knew I had to get the right kind of leverage for Rico. As he said, he could acquire it without my help, but I realized he was testing me, to see if I was up to the task and worth the risk of bringing me into his inner-fold.

There’s no one in Rico’s circle that doesn’t offer some benefit to him or contributes to his goals in some way. He was helping me out of a situation and giving me the opportunity to step into a better one. Yes, Rico helps people, but you better believe sooner or later, he’ll come to collect the debt.

GG and I met up with Tim and Cheyanne at The Mighty Oyster, a seafood restaurant on the waterfront. I don’t know what I was expecting when I met Tim’s girlfriend, aside from the same shade of blonde hair, their styles were completely different. She was one of those artsy hipsters, while Tim dressed more Abercrombie & Fitch.

“Hey, Bash! This is great, meeting up like this. I want to introduce you to my girlfriend, Cheyanne,” Tim brightly greeted me.

“Hello, Cheyanne, it’s good to meet you,” I said and extended my hand. Cheyanne’s eyes lit up, and instead of taking my hand, she hugged me. “Hi! I’m happy to know you, Bash. Tim has told me so many good things about you,” she gushed.

I was a little surprised to hear that and was taken aback by her forward and warm demeanor. “Tim, Cheyanne, I’d like you to meet GG, my lady,” I said, turning toward GG.

GG graciously smiled and offered her hand, which Tim shook, but Cheyanne hugged her as well.

“Wow, you are drop-dead gorgeous!” exclaimed Cheyanne. GG blushed. “Thank you. It’s nice to meet you both.”

We were shown to our table and browsed our menu. GG decided to go vegetarian and ordered tofu chicken salad platter. “Are you a vegetarian? I am too! But there’s not a lot to choose from on this menu. I think I’ll get the tofu chicken platter too,” said Cheyanne to GG.
“I’m not a complete vegetarian, but I often go without meat several days a week,” she replied.

“So, GG. Bash tells me you’re from Brazil? When did you move to the states?” asked Tim. When I initially extended that olive branch, I gave little details about GG to Tim. He would meet her soon enough, and I knew it would be a painful experience. At least GG had my back and decided to come and support me. She’s much better at putting people at ease within social settings.

“I was ten years old when my family and I moved here from Rio de Janeiro. I went to university in New York, but most of my family lives in Willow Creek,” replied GG.

“That is amazing. I swear every woman I’ve seen from Brazil is beautiful! You’re no exception at all. What part of Rio are you from?” asked Cheyanne. She was hanging onto GG’s every word. She’s made a new fan.

“São Conrado. It’s an old neighborhood in the South Zone.”

Cheyanne’s eyes grew big. “Wow, is that the same area located right next to Favela da Rocinha?” asked.

GG drew a breath. Speaking of the Rocinha Favela isn’t something she often liked to do, and it was part of the reason her family wanted to move from the city. “Yes,” she nodded.

“I can’t imagine. Have you ever been to one? A favela?” asked Tim.

GG took a long swig of her Moscato. “No. Girls like me, where I was raised and based on who my family is, shouldn’t go to the favelas.”

Although she hid it well, I could tell this line of questioning was making GG uncomfortable, but she remained gracious. I decided to switch gears a bit. “So, uh Cheyanne, was is it exactly that you do?” I asked.

“Oh, I am a freelance graphic illustrator. I know, it’s weird that Tim and I are together. I’m the least techy person I know. I know graphics and all that stuff, but I know nothing of programming,” laughed Cheyanne.

GG and I learned through her babbling that Cheyanne graduated from Sarah Lawrence, she composts, collects rainwater for drinking and bathing, and she grows her own food. Typical.

“You know, GG I have such a good team at work, and your guy here is one of the smartest people at the company. Bash is such an asset. I’m fortunate to have him on my team,” Tim enthused.

GG looked at me and smiled. “Yes, he’s like an encyclopedia. I am not very techy either, so if I have questions about computers, I just call Bash and let him handle everything,” she giggled.

Tim and I didn’t discuss work too much, other than him mentioning some of the future projects for Cypher he was eager to start on. He told me he hoped I would be fully on board once we go to launch and build on the application soon. I told Tim he could count on it. Surely, it would be a slower climb than I would want, and I have to play Tim just right. I can’t push anything on him. I seriously doubt I would arouse suspicion from Tim, but others would be watching.

*********************

After lunch, we split the bill. I paid for myself, and GG and Tim took care of his and Cheyanne’s portion. They said they would love it we could go hiking with them in a couple of weeks. I saw the look of panic on GG’s face and knew almost certainly it was out of the question. I didn’t commit to anything, but I told Tim that it sounded like a good time and we’ll talk about it soon.

GG and I said goodbye and headed toward the boardwalk near the parking lot where my car was. “Well, that’s two and a half hours of my life I’ll never get back,” I sighed.

“I mean, they were a little Donnie and Marie, but I thought they were cute,” she laughed.
“Cute? Are you serious? Well, I guess you can add Cheyanne to your growing list of fans. She’s mesmerized by you,” I said, dryly.

GG shrugged. “She was adorable. But, now that I have formally met one of your co-workers, and I don’t mean at the bar during happy hour, maybe I’ll meet more people.” GG was hinting at wanting to meet my family in Oasis. As much as I loved being with her, GG was the one bright spot in my life, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to taint that by bringing her to my old neighborhood and introduce her to some of the most unambitious people I knew who thrived on mediocrity. No, I would put that off for a long as I could.

Chapter 9.2 Sugar & Blood

Marquez’s POV

(language)

“I have to get down to S.H.E magazine. Will you be home later tonight?” asked Ekko. She had spent the night before and was headed out early this morning for a modeling job.

“No. I don’t know when I’ll be home. I’ll hit you later,” I replied.

I had a lot to get done today, and as usual, Ekko was too much of a distraction when it came to my work.

I showed her out the front the door and headed to the bathroom and showered. About an hour later, the Thetas, my personal crew, the guys who reported to me and not Lamar arrived at the apartment.

My main goto man in Remy, my cousin and closest friend. We were more than cousins, more like brothers as we grew up with each other. Kobe and Tripp, I have been friends since we were kids and I met Deuce when I was doing a three-month stint in juvey when I was fifteen. I don’t trust any other nigga more than I do these four right here, ya feel me?

“Damn, G. It’s rare you call a meeting this early. I wasn’t even done hittin’ some ass, my girl was about to make a nigga some pancakes!” said Kobe. Remy and Tripp laughed. I shrugged. “Yeah, well if you get your dick blown off, you ain’t gon’ be hittin’ nothin.”

“Come, sit down, y’all. We got business. First, Lupita’s shipment is still on the table, but there’s been a change. The shipment is now coming in on the seventh. I inquired about the hold up from my contact, but finally got word that the date was pushed back,” I revealed as I ushered the crew into the living area.

“Man, why even try to risk this? For some ain’t shit X? Fuckin’ with anything of the Noriegas is dumb as fuck. How we even know for sure this ain’t a set up by Lupita or even Lamar?” questioned Kobe.

“Quit actin’ like a bitch,” Duece shot at Kobe. “What? Nah, these is questions we need to be asking. Flex need to know, we all do,” he argued.

“Lamar is stupid enough to try to front on Flex. But I don’t think he would be so deliberate about it just yet. His ass knows Flex the one with the best connections and our people prefer to deal with him. If the streets know he was gonna do his own man like that when everyone is aware he ain’t got enough clout, ain’t nobody gonna want to fuck with him. Lamar gotta play the game just like the next nigga. When he tries us, and he will, he ain’t gonna leave Flex with much room. He’ll give us just enough to hang ourselves, deadass,” said Remy.

I looked over at him. I scratched at my beard. “That’s known. Look, we not gettin’ the shipment for Lamar. I co-contracted with Crip-Daddy. He’s gonna send a few from his squad to the docks the night of the seventh to pick it up. They know the Spice Lane eses are responsible for getting the X to Angel for Lupita. They’ll handle it. I don’t think Lupita would try anything right now because her father is in a precarious situation. But it would not be out of character for her to have some of Angel’s men out there, blow us up and blame the Mexicans for it,” I pointed out.

Tripp, Deuce, and Remy nodded. “Yeah, she a petty bitch, but she not a dumb bitch,” spoke up Tripp.

“As long as her Mexican’t ass stays in her lane. She come outta pocket, I got a bullet for that bitch,” proclaimed Duece.

Mexican’t? She ain’t even Mexican, she Colombian,” said Kobe. Deuce looked over and glared at him. I could see the lines on his face forming; his eyes were tense. “I don’t give a fuck! They all the same!”

“Damn nigga, who the fuck shitted in your Cheerios this morning?” asked Kobe, laughing.

“Keep talking with yo’ silly ass. After I get done putting a bullet in that hoe, I got one for you too, dead-fuckin-ass!” yelled Deuce.

“All right! Chill the fuck out both of you. Deuce, calm yo ass down, G,” I ordered.

Deuce had a forever chip on his shoulder and stayed in a bad mood. Kobe liked to joke around too much, and it got on our nerves at times, but he especially irritated Deuce. I didn’t have time for any of this shit. Yes, this shipment was worth peanuts, but it wasn’t about the monetary value.

There were forces out there planning their attacks on my crew and McQueen’s organization at large. It was bad enough most didn’t like to fuck with Lamar like that; he was too much of a loose cannon. He had made too many enemies, therefore, I got new enemies through him and they were coming from all sides. It’s never the big and quick assaults that get my attention first, it’s the covert mini attacks, and psychological warfare more capable killers like Carmine and Lupita were sending my way as well as the passive-aggressive bullshit Lamar leveled at me. All of it adds up, but it comes long before the long war.

****************************

It was a couple of days after my initial meeting with my crew informing them that the shipment for Lupita’s shipment had been pushed back. We were at Sky Bar, a lounge in the Uptown District, not far from where I lived in Midtown. I came here on occasion, as the owner was a close associate and kept me informed of patrons who came through his doors. I don’t parlay too often in the same places at any given time, for one I prefer to keep a low profile when I’m out by myself, and I’ve never been the type to stunt and flash on others; drawing unnecessary attention to myself.

From the moment Lamar told me of his short-sighted plan to get the Noriega delivery, I knew I would not be the one to do it, I just needed to figure out the best way to get the job done but without significant risk to my crew over product that wasn’t worth the trouble. I decided to have Crip-Daddy, a low-level player who is “head” of the 500 set of his neighborhood in Oasis Springs get the X. When I need small jobs done, I don’t mind bringing C on to get the work done for me. For one, I can delegate lesser responsibilities to those I don’t need, and I can focus my attention on the operations that matter; while looking out for the livelihood and lives of the Thetas, for they’re the only ones who I give a fuck about in this game.

Bella Vega, a detective in the Narcotics Unit, is my inside connection to the SMPD. She isn’t the only one, but I deal with her more than others. Since I met up with her at the Blue Moon Motel shortly after she and those other bitches searched my house, we haven’t had any contact. It wasn’t out of the ordinary for Bella and me to go long stretches of time without communication, and that was preferable. More often than not lately, I’ve begun believing she was more of a hindrance and a liability rather than an asset. Bella expected me to come full throttle with any and all information, but that ain’t the game.

Our “relationship” didn’t start off physical, but it grew into that overtime. I looked at it as insurance; a way for me to lock her down with leverage, in case she ever wanted to be stupid and turn on me. She was so fucking full of herself and thought she knew every got-damn thing. Bella fucked like a pro, but her mouth is reckless; its best suited for other purposes.

I already knew Crip-Daddy had been picked up by Det. Porcelli; a racist ass bitch that stayed harassing black and brown people in the Spice District. He didn’t fuck with wrong ones usually, and he knew who to try. I also knew the hoes he paid to fuck and the dealer he bought his crack from. When Porcelli picked C up in Spice Lane, Bella suspected he was down there for some sanctioned operation by me. At the time, it wasn’t. C told me anyway the po-pos had him at headquarters. I didn’t confirm or deny to Bella he was down there of my accord. She could think whatever she wanted to. The dumb bitch doesn’t know half the things she thinks she knows.

‘(Oh my God!)

Excuse me Doug E Fresh
Yes?
Have you ever seen a show with fellas on the mic
With one minute rhymes that don’t come out right
They bite, they never write, that’s not polite
Am I lying?
No, you’re quite right
Well tonight on this very mic you’re about to hear
We swear, the best darn rappers of the year
So, so, cheerio, yell, scream bravo
Also, if you didn’t know this is called The Show

A-yo Doug
What?
Put your Ballys on
Yo Rick, I was about to but I need a shoe horn
Why?
Because these shoes always hurt my corns
Six minutes…
Six minutes…
Six minutes Doug E Fresh you’re on
Uh uh on, uh uh on, uh-huh-uh-huh-uh uh uh on…’

The Thetas and I were seated in the VIP section on a balcony overlooking the city. From there I could see everything in the club, all who came from downstairs to those who made it up the second level, out on the terrace, the bars, seating area, and the tables occupied by other club-goers. It was Golden Era Hip-Hop night. The Show by Doug E Fresh was blaring through the speakers. The club was quickly filling up.

Our section was stocked with every type of liquor you could think of and trays of food. Ekko wasn’t with me tonight. At times, she accompanied me to the club, but I told her to stay at her apartment tonight, for I had some unfinished business to discuss with the fellas.

“Re, have you set up eyes for the drop?” I asked. I had tasked Remy with keeping an eye on the X situation when everything went down on the seventh. He couldn’t take the chance to show up himself in case he was spotted. The Noriegas knew him as one of my capos.

“Yeah, Tofu is going to handle it.” I nodded. Tofu was a low-level player that worked for Remy. He was Remy’s cousin on his father’s side, but not related to me, as we’re family through our mothers. “You just make sure he keeps a low profile. Lupita surely anticipates opposition to the eses. She don’t give a fuck if they get shot up,” I pointed out.

“I don’t know, my nigga, like you said weeks ago, some little shipment like this is small change for the Noriegas. They could make a good four times it’s worth on the street, but it’s still chump change for them. I know her daddy being in jail has slowed her business somewhat. But why receive such a small amount of X? Doesn’t seem like her style,” said Kobe.

I looked over at him. “That’s because it is chump change for her. There’s only a couple of reasons Lupita decided to receive the X in the first place; either she was doing it as a favor for an alliance that will benefit and supply her with X and other pharmaceuticals in the future and she’s testing the water to see if she can diversify the Noriega family portfolio outside of bricks. She could be covering something of more value. Being that her delivery was pushed back, my moneys on the latter.”

“I find it odd. Lupita’s been on ice for months. Her main operation has slowed, but it doesn’t seem like she would risk bringing in bricks of candy when 5-0 got her daddy hemmed up and their eyes on her right now,” observed Tripp.

“In normal circumstances, I would agree. Have you been paying attention? I told y’all to spend less time dipping into the DMs of insta-hoes and pay more attention to the actual news. That DEA raid in Hialeah was no small thing for them. You really think Carmine is gonna let his brother’s product stayed locked up down there?” I asked.

It was a rhetorical question but designed to make one think. Remy gave me a knowing look, but I didn’t find it necessary to inform Tripp, Deuce, and Kobe just yet on what I fully believed was Lupita’s ultimate plan. I didn’t have direct knowledge coming from her camp, as the people she chose to have in her most intimate circle were chosen wisely and kept her secrets. But I had other information and clues I’d pieced together that lead me to believe this was her goal. Maybe not her goal initially, but after Hector’s product was seized, creating a diversion to bring it to New Crest would be a smart way to get the coke into his hands and out of the fed’s possession.

I informed the Thetas it was enough shop talk for now and I nodded my head toward my muscle, Big Tig. He unhooked the barrier to VIP, and a few honeys casually strolled in.

One of whom was another girl I kept on the roster, Kisses. She was a dancer at Tossed, a strip club owned by my Uncle Alvin, who was only a few years older than me.

Kisses was born in Jamaica to a Black American mom, but her daddy is Jamaican. She moved to the States when she was in elementary school and didn’t have much of an accent. I loved her energy; she was lit as fuck, but not thirsty.

“Hey boo, you lookin’ good,” said Kisses, as she leaned in for a hug and lightly kissed me on my cheek.

“Damn, I was wondering where the females was at!” yelled Kobe. I shooked my head, his stayed with koochie on the brain. It didn’t take long for one of Kisses homegirls to get his attention.

I grabbed her booty and slapped it. “You look good enough to eat, girl.” I stood back and admired the way Kisses skin tight pink jumpsuit hugs her hips and accentuated her small waist and thick thighs. This is what I can truly appreciate it. I love ‘em thick. Ekko was more of a traditional print and sometimes runway model, so she was on the thinner side. She still had curves, but her ass and thighs were nowhere as thick and juicy as Kisses’.

“How much you out?” I asked her. Typically, the weekend is when Kisses made most of her money, so when she forgoes dancing to post up with me, I occasionally kicked her down a stack or two.

“The usual,” replied Kisses, rubbing her nails together like “Ronnie-run-me-my-money” in The Player’s Club.

“A ‘G can’t get the discounted rate,” I chuckled. Kisses smacked her bright pink painted lips together. She wore one side of her head shaved with waist long honey blonde box braids cascading to the side.

“Please, niggas come from all over the country to see me, boo; you know this. If NBA players and NFL dudes don’t get a discount, what makes you think I’ll give you one?” she stared at me expectantly.

“I don’t expect anything less from you. But you gon’ work for it later,” I replied, biting my lower lip. I handed two stacks to Kisses that she threw into her Louis bag. Of course, she made twice that amount on any given Friday, but I do a lot for her, more than my other girls next to Ekko.

“Top Model ain’t here tonight?” observed Kisses looking around with a smirk on her face. ‘Top Model’ was the nickname she gave to Ekko. They were aware of each other and couldn’t stand being in the same vicinity.

“Nah she at home.”

“Hmm. Cause I saw her friend, that Ethiopian Becky-with-the-good-hair,” said Kisses. I was momentarily confused. Then I realized she was talking about Ekko’s girl, Ayana Dinha. I’ve met her briefly once before, and I could tell she had some issue with me, not that I gave a fuck about Ekko’s friends.

“Damn Kisses, that ass lookin’ good. You didn’t bring any of your friends from the club with you?” asked Remy as he approached us.

“Why would I bring any of them hoes? My girls are here in VIP. I ain’t bringing them sloppy thots from the club nowhere. We ain’t puttin’ on no show tonight, boy,” she replied.

Kisses and I were pretty similar in how we moved; I didn’t fuck with the guys that worked directly for Lamar on a social basis.

I stuck with my crew for the most part. Kisses was pretty much the same way.

“Eh, Flex. Looks at that Spanish chick Have you ever seen her in here before?” asked Remy, nodding his head toward the dancefloor.

I followed his gaze and saw a Latina chick I wasn’t familiar with. She was fine, stacked with a small waist.

“No, I would’ve remembered,” I replied.

“Tig, you see that female in the light blue jumpsuit? Go ask her to come here,” Remy called to Tig. He nodded and headed toward the dancefloor.

Remy watched intensely as Tig approached the girl. She turned around and stretched her neck to look up at him.

They seemed to have what looked like a short conversation. The girl turned her head toward VIP and locked eyes with Remy. She glanced back up at Tig and uttered a few more words.

Tig headed back to VIP, but the girl stayed near the dancefloor. She looked across the room at Remy once more and turned around.

“What shorty talkin’ ’bout?” asked Remy when Tig reentered. “She says she doesn’t know you and you’re more than welcome to buy her a drink,” he replied.

Remy laughed. “Oh, so she wants to play that game,” he said and left VIP.

I briefly watched Remy approach his new would-be conquest, no doubt spitting whatever game he could to bring her over to our section.

Instead, they made their way through the crowd until they reached the bar and ordered drinks.

I was only half paying attention and completely stopped once Kisses started whispering in my ear all the nasty shit she wanted to do to me when we got home. She didn’t have to wait long.

I looked up at Tig and told him to get Remy because I was ready to leave. This is the way it is. Rarely do we as a group come to a club and leave one behind.

On some occasions, yes, but not when we’re in the beginning stages of war like we currently are. What the Thetas did after we all left the club was up to them. But we ride together; we die together.

 

 

****Lyrics Doug E. Fresh & Slick Rick otherwise real hip hop kings. 

****Author’s Note: Eye Spy some of my main characters at the club tonight! Ayana is there with her BFF Parminder, you met them in chapter 5. Colin Stone has not had his own POV yet, but he’s at the club with his cousin Adonis Stone. Bash was also there and you may recognize GG, his girlfriend from chapter 4. And yes, the girl Remy is in heat over is one of Lupita’s Flying Squad spies, Alejandra from chapter 9.1. Flex and the Thetas don’t recognize her, as she is new to Lupita’s organization. 

Thanks for reading!

-Camille

Ayana Dinha’s The Classy Reviewer: White-Hot Chic

Make it hot, make it white.

By Ayana Dinha, Editor-In-Chief

I usually don’t model for the magazine anymore, but I went ahead and bit the bullet for my feature. Hello everyone! -Ayana

****Author’s Note: This is an article for GOP character Ayana Dinha’s story. You can read her first pov in chapter 5. The same article is located on the S.H.E magazine website. Thank you!

There’s no better way to look sophisticated than dressing in a white-hot chic ensemble for summer. Choose light and breathable fabrics and accessorize with earth-tone jewelry and accents. Whether you’re jet-setting from Miami or Ibiza or going on a weekend trip to Catalina Island, you’ll be sure to turn heads as the majestic colors vibrantly bounce off your skin. Keep it cool, keep it white.

Sachi Top- Slay Classy. Balmain Pants- Pietro’s Style.
Yoher Heels- Madlen. Statement necklace and bracelets- Jomsims.
Hair & Makeup- Nightcrawler & Praline Sims.

 

Shot on location, Golden Beach, Miami, FL.

Ayana’s Biography

Check out the cover of our special Summer Preview!

 

Chapter 9.1 Sugar & Blood

Lupita Noriega’s POV:

(some language)

 

I had arrived at the New Crest Regional Justice Center’s visitor’s lounge, but there was nothing “lounge-worthy” or comfortable about A room with the dingy walls, old wooden tables, and hard metal fold-out chairs. I was here for my monthly visit with my father, Carmine Noriega.

Papa was being held awaiting trial on multiple drug charges. His lawyers, some of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country were working on getting him house arrest until his trial started. In the meantime, I had been tasked with overseeing our family’s principal operations, while two of my older brothers handled out of state business. I didn’t see Junior and Felix very often; it was better for them to stay out of my sight.

I heard a guard unlock the door to the visitor’s lounge. The other families who had been waiting looked up as five inmates filed in. I was sitting at the opposite end of the room away from everyone and didn’t budge as girlfriends and wives cried out their names.

I took a swig of my coffee and waited until the guard gave everyone the rules they were to follow by over the next hour. My father had been eyeing me the entire time. Of the other inmates he was with, he was by far the most known by the police and other inmates here. They treated him well. I paid them well to make sure of it.

“Mi niña” Papa stretched his arms and held me. I quickly kissed him on each of his cheeks. “Hello, Papa. Cómo está?”

“Bien. Come, sit.”

Papa pulled out my chair; motioning for me to sit down. He walked to the other side of the table and lowered himself into this chair with an inquisitive look in his eyes as he studied my face. “You look very nice, Lupe.”

“Thank you. You look well,” I replied. In truth, Papa looked as if he’d aged five years since being locked up. Papa had gone gray years ago, but there was still a youthful vigor in this looks and countenance. Now the wrinkles on his forehead and around his eyes were more visible. I hated seeing him stuck in a place like this. His attorneys weren’t working fast enough to get him house arrest in my opinion. I could pull some strings with the court, but I didn’t want to call in any favors just yet.

I had a feeling Papa had called me for this meeting because he wanted me to assist my uncle with recovering his assets. I wasn’t enthusiastic about helping him as Hector was a greedy, selfish, and trigger-happy man. He was too impulsive and made decisions on the fly. But my father had always sworn to protect him as he’s done for all his family. Hector didn’t like me either. He thought it was a mistake that Papa named me his successor and appointed me the boss while he was jailed. Hector sided with my older brother, Junior who believed he should be running our operation.

Hector, my father’s younger brother had recently got into some trouble down in Miami with the feds. One of his foot soldiers, José Sanchez, had contacted the DEA about product in a drop house in Hialeah. He’d been working as a confidential informant. Uncle Hector was aware of this in part from the information the agents on his payroll gave him. Shortly after the DEA raided and seized the location, Jose attempted to flee, but my cousin, Jorge got to him first and neutralized the threat. The problem now is that Hector’s product was still with the DEA.

“Papa, I wanted to you to know, we’re working on getting you home. It’s taking longer than what I’d like.”

“Don’t worry about that right now, Lupe. I have other family news I need to discuss with you. Your tía has been very ill,” said Papa, reaching over and touching my hand. His intense stare and touch, all signified that he had a coded message to give me. I nodded my head, letting him know that I understood.

“As I was saying, she’s sick. She’s always been overweight, not as heavy as she was in the past. Her blood sugar is very high, about 200 mg on five different occasions for nearly three weeks. You understand why those numbers are significant, niña?” asked Papa.

“Si. I didn’t know the extent of her illness,” I replied; waiting for further instructions.

“I feel bad; ever since her best friend in Miami died, things have been rough as she left her kids behind. Candy was like a family member to us. It hurts that I can’t comfort your tía and she can’t check on Candy’s kids; they were like her own children,” continued Papa.

What my father had been telling me through his code is that “tía or aunt” means shipment. Her being “overweight” meant it was large, but him saying that she’s not as big as she was in the past is letting me know that the amount didn’t have as many kilos as some of the other weight we carried. Her “blood sugar” being 200 mg is equal to two hundred thousand dollars on five different occasions meaning one million dollars. My “tía” has had that reading for nearly “three weeks,” which translated to twenty days. One million per day for twenty days equals twenty million dollars worth of product. Depending on the quality and what market the buyers are from, it could be worth fifty to seventy-five million on the street. The “friend” Candy, is code for cocaine. Her “death” in Miami referred to my Uncle Hector’s product getting seized by the feds. The kids she left behind is the actual coke.

I glanced across the room at the guard who didn’t seem to pay attention to much of anything. No one seemed to mind Papa and me, but you can never be too sure. Everyone was talking loudly with their visitors, laughing and seemingly enjoying themselves, as much as one could in jail.

Papa stroked his goatee signifying he would now give me instructions on what he needed me to do. “Do you remember your Uncle Simon? He was close to Candy too and assured your tía that he would check on the kids and take them on vacation. His wife, Deanna, will visit the kids with him.”

“Will Deanna make the trip with Simon?” I questioned.

“No, not this time, she can’t get away from work,” replied Papa.

In truth, I had no “Uncle Simon,” but the name was a reference to Simon Templar, a master of aliases. Deanna was code for DEA. Simon’s real name is Sonny, and he’s a very loyal friend to my father. His wife Deanna “visiting the kids” meant that their contact within the agency would help get the coke out of their possession.

“Where is Simon taking the kids?” I asked. “Disneyworld. Then it’s out Brindleton, where he plans on taking them on a cruise to San Myshuno. In total, their trip should last a week. Once they get to San Myshuno, they’ll land on Wright Island in the evening before taking a ferry to the pier. I want you to pick up kids and take them to New Crest with you; it will be good to get away.”

“Are they seeing any relatives along the way?” I wanted to know if there would be a pick up added to the amount of the shipment between Orlando and San Myshuno. Papa shook head. “No, they don’t have time.”

More of what my father had been telling is that once the product was out of Miami or Hialeah in this case, it would go to Orlando, where some of my uncle Hector’s lieutenants were. With the help of “Simon”, he’ll get it transported to Brindleton to travel up the coast by sea until it got to Wright Island, which is located in the Bay of San Myshuno.

“As you know, Niña it’s hectic on the pier these days, now that not much import is coming through Brindleton Bay. Be careful of distractions,” Papa cryptically warned.

His final order to be “careful of distractions” he was directing me to create a diversion, so that once the shipment came in and I retrieved it, that any law enforcement or enemies are focused on something else. The trip lasting a week meant everything would go down on the seventh. There was a lot I had to get done to ensure a smooth transition, and I didn’t have any time to waste.

**************************

I headed to Miami a few hours after visiting Papa on our family private jet with my Flying Squad; a group of female spies I employ to sleep with enemies and those I keep tabs on and report back to me.

Occasionally I go there and stay in my second home on Golden Beach. I’m always aware that feds and enemies alike are watching, more so in New Crest where I live full-time. Law enforcement follows you nearly everywhere. All of my family’s homes were equipped with high-end technology that scrambled any listening devices outsiders may employ. When it came to conducting business, more specifically coordinating a delivery, I preferred to do it in my hometown where I had more control and influence over the feds and police.

A distraction for the night of the seventh was needed if I were to obtain Hector’s shipment. I had thought a lot about what I could do to divert any attention from our operation. From my insider within the San Myshuno Narcotics Unit, I learned they had eyes on McQueen and my affiliates in Spice Lane. There was an informant within McQueen’s organization that reported back to me any plans of Lamar’s he was given access to.

I’ve known for a considerable amount of time that McQueen aimed to steal a shipment of Xanax I had coming in that was worth three hundred thousand dollars. It was a drop in the bucket compared to what I usually dealt with, but I could make four times over what it’s currently worth. I decided to call an associate in DC who had ties to Nova Pharmaceuticals who manufactured the drug. There’s delivery already scheduled, but I needed more time. It’s what McQueen would be paying attention to as well as the SMPD.

Through my eyes on streets and within the McQueen organization, I became aware that he had tasked his second in command, Flex with the duty of stealing the Xanax. I laughed when I first learned of that news. It was clear as day how much jealousy and dislike he had for his own man. It was virtually a set up to get him killed.

Flex, of course, isn’t as stupid as McQueen and decided to co-contract to the 500 set of the OS Crips to obtain the drugs for him. The eses in Spice Lane was a street affiliate of the Sureños, a large gang network, but with their own rival factions. Officially, I hated gangs and despised them, but they kept the one territory in San Myshuno my family has had control of for decades within our hands. Soon enough they’ll become obsolete, and I won’t have to deal with them.

I had tasked the Spice Avenue gang with the job of retrieving the Xanax for me. Typically, I would never allow some bum fuck street gang to handle anything worth a significant amount of money. However, as the eses were expendable and I need my own men to carry out more important jobs, they’d have to do for now.

I sent two separate texts to my Nova insider with my code telling him to use his influence to get the shipment pushed back until the seventh.

You’ve been helpful in the past with my relationship issues. I thought things settled were between us.

My ex called me seven times today.

Through my own coded language, I recognized that he’d helped me with other deliveries. As far as concerning this one, we previously “settled” or agreed on a date. Now, I was letting him know that there were some changes and seven times meant the seventh of the month. Within fifteen minutes, my contact informed he would get it handled and would reach out once he got confirmation of the date. I advised him to create a legitimate excuse, one that would stand up under scrutiny.

Although I preferred not to do anything to help my uncle Hector, the delay in the Xanax shipment would give me more time for special reconnaissance within McQueen’s cartel; specifically Flex and his Theta crew.

I walked down the long corridor leading to the patio and found my ladies sitting poolside, taking advantage of the what was left of the Florida sun.

Jimena and Alejandra were resting on chaise loungers, while Gabriela sat at the edge of the pool working on her tan.

I stood in front of Alejandra. “Come,” I said.

She looked up shielding her eyes and quickly got up, following me into the parlor.

“Is everything okay, Lupita?” she asked.

“When we get back to New Crest, I have a job for you.”

Alejandra eagerly nodded her head. “Okay.”

“Flex’s main man is his cousin, Remy Wallace. I need you to get close to him. Let me know his comings and goings. Get access to his phone, so I can see his contacts and messages, all he deals with. He loves Cuban girls. My mother was Cuban, so he has good taste,” I said.

“I’m Colombian. I don’t know anything about Cuba,” replied Alejandra. I scoffed. As one of my newer spies, she still had so much to learn about the art of deception. The only reason I chose her is that she had a certain “look” I was sure Remy would go for. Alejandra’s long thick black hair, face, and curvy physique would take her far if she played her cards right.

“Then tell him a sad story about how your family had to escape Castro and sail to Miami on a banana boat and make him a fucking Cuban sandwich.” I snapped.

Alejandra began to laugh. “Is that supposed to be funny?” I asked. When I tell Jimena and Gabriela to do something, they understand what I want and don’t pester me with stupid questions.

“Oh, I thought you were kidding. I’m sorry, Lupita.”

“Why would I be kidding? That’s how my mother got here. What you think you’re better than her?” I demanded.

Alejandra’s face began getting red and flustered. “No, of course not!” she cried.

I was lying to make a point. In truth, my mother, Griselda’s family were some of the wealthiest landowners in Cuba before the revolution. Once Castro took power, they fled by ship and landed in Miami before she was born.

I stepped closer to her face so she could understand the seriousness of what I’d wanted her to do and the consequences if she were to fail. “Might I remind you, you’re in this country illegally. If I so choose, I’ll send your ass back to the Bogotá brothel from which Angel found you.” Fucking chonga. By the look of fear in her eyes, Alejandra knew I meant every last word, and I always make good on my promises.

************************

“There’s been a change in plans. My father wants me to help Hector get his goods out of Miami once we get back to New Crest. There’s a seven-day trip planned my Uncle Simon has planned for the kids. We don’t want to draw any attention to this, so I came up with a means of distraction.”

It was late afternoon; I was sitting on the sun porch with Angel my second in command and two of my lieutenants. Tomas was my cousin and lived with us as children when his father was sent to prison, and his mother fled the country. Roberto initially worked as my bodyguard, but he has many duties. I’d known each of them since childhood, but I was closest to Angel and trusted him explicitly over everyone next to my father.

“How many kids? Is it the same amount?” asked Tomas.

“Yes ‘Deanna’ hasn’t confirmed it, but once they’re in town, we will verify it,” I replied.

“We need to know for sure,” said Angel.

I looked over at him. “As I said, she hasn’t confirmed it, that’s why we will. If anything is missing or goes awry, Deanna and Hector will answer for it.”

“No other visits along the way?” asked Roberto.

“No. Taking that many kids on a trip is not the easiest thing to do. It takes careful planning and there are many distractions.”

“We’re only dealing with them en route in the States. The ‘Queen’ and his men will be checking for the X delivery through my pharmacy. I had my insider push back the date as a means of distraction. While Flex’s little OS blue boys and the Mexicans are focused on that, we’ll slip right in and retain possession.  I’ll give you the details of the plans later. Now leave, I need to speak with Angel.”

I motioned my head toward the door and waited for Roberto and Tomas to walk back inside the house.

“The job includes more than my uncle’s kids as well as the X shipment. I had to get my contact with Nova to change the date to the seventh. It was the easiest way for me to plan a legitimate distraction,” I said once Angel and me were alone.

“It will buy us some time. I did some calculations, our window won’t be very long,” said Angel.

“You will have to make every moment count then won’t you?” I got up and walked over to the railing, looking out over the sun setting over the water.

“The job will get done. Hector better fall in line. We’re putting ourselves on the line for him,” said Angel following me across the porch.

“Take care of whoever retrieves the shipment of the X and get it back,” I informed him.

“What needs to happen next?” asked Angel. It was good that he and those who worked for me fell in line. Order and respect were crucial in my line of work.

“Make sure the blame is placed on either gangs’ rival. Once they see their fallen ‘soldiers,’ they will blame the other. I don’t care if it’s the Crips or the eses because the X will get flooded in Lamar’s territory through a surrogate. We’ll give the illusion that he’s responsible. I hate gangs, they’re some of the lowest forms of life and take up space. Eventually, they’ll cancel each other out.”

“Lamar will deny everything, and he’ll most likely believe Flex set up the gangs,” observed Angel. His were fixated on the water as he was playing the scene of what would happen in his head.

“Yes, and for extra insurance, we’ll plant part of the Xanax on Remy Wallace. Through my inside liaison in the Narcotics Unit, I know that he has a side operation his cousin isn’t aware of. Once Flex finds out about that and sees the drugs at Remy’s house, he will start questioning his loyalty. One of my ladies is the Trojan horse that will get inside. Lamar won’t trust Flex anymore than he already does. All I need is to plant the seed of doubt. They’ll tear each other down eventually.”

It was a covert plan I needed to enact to weaken Lamar further. There was a lot of heat on my organization due to my father’s legal issues. It wouldn’t be wise for me to start an all-out war with Lamar in the open just yet so I would begin slowly chipping away at his business from the inside.

“Who did you choose to get close to Remy?” asked Angel.

“Alejandra. She’s his type. You don’t conduct years of reconnaissance on your enemies and not learn a little something about them.”

“Are you worried it may be too early for her?”

I paused for a moment. “No, if I didn’t think Alejandra would be of some use to me, I’d never allowed her into my fold.”

Remy is smart, but he’s blinded by the koochie of a particular type of woman, like most men who tend to think with their penises; for most of them, that was the only thing they were good for.

Although I do trust Angel, Tomas, and Roberto, I would never have one hundred percent faith in anyone. Even my father only has ninety-nine percent. You must always leave room for a margin of error. It’s imperative in you were to survive in this game.

 

****Author’s Note: Lupita has been mentioned in the story on several occasions in chapter six and eight mainly. I’m so excited for her first appearance and pleased with her POV. It would be wise for her enemies not to get on her bad side!

Lupita’s group of female spies The Flying Squad is loosely based on Queen Catherine de Medici’s special ladies in waiting  (Flying Squadron). They slept with noblemen to extract information. 

You can read about Lupita’s background in character bio index

You can read about the Noriega Family in the character bio index

Check us out on Facebook for cc and story updates. Come and join our group.SOCS

Please leave a comment, it’s much appreciated! Thank you for reading!

Chapter 7 Going to the Mattresses

Rico Thomas’ POV

I was in New York for a meeting with Harrison to discuss the Jupiter Works acquisition. Edward Enterprises L.P. is a diversified holdings conglomerate located in the 9 West building in Manhattan. One of Harrison’s subsidiaries is Edward Capital L.P., an activist hedge fund with just over seventeen billion in assets under management. Aside from being a businessman and billionaire philanthropist, Harrison is an old family friend and my mentor. He’s currently married but separated from his wife.

I had the highest respect and admiration Harrison, even more so than my father. He taught me everything I know about my business, how to obtain power; ultimately he’s shown me how to survive.

Harrison had gained a reputation a pit bull corporate raider in the nineties; the preferred modern term is “activist investor or shareholder.” He told me once when I was at Harvard that he preferred the name “corporate raider” because it invoked a feeling of fear and that “activist investor” made him sound like he was outside on 57th street holding up signs in protests. Edward Capital is one of the top hedge funds in the country, particularly in the software technology market. It’s well known for being at the center of many hostile takeovers, acquisitions, and mergers. Several of the takeovers Harrison’s executed over the years have resulted in corporations breaking up, selling off, or shutting down altogether. Harrison was nothing pleasant when it came to a boardroom coup d’etat.

I don’t go to Harrison for every merger or acquisition my firm consults on. There is a multitude of ways we strategize for our clients if they’re looking to merge with another company or completely acquire it. Not all takeovers were hostile, and frankly, I preferred when they’re not. Since Jupiter decided to shut down talks with Grazier, they came to us to execute the best plan that would eventually get them controlling shares of Jupiter.

I wanted to see Harrison face to face to talk about our strategy, and it was better to meet in his New York offices, rather than San Myshuno for various reasons.

Cassandra, the first assistant, greeted me in the executive reception area on the 44th floor. “Good afternoon, Mr. Thomas. Mr. Edward is expecting you,  right this way, please.” I closely followed behind Cassandra, admiring the way her sleek black dress fit snuggly over her swinging hips. I could tell she wore Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue because it was the same perfume I’ve purchased for Shoshannah many times.

She showed me into Harrison’s massive corner office with views overlooking the park and expansive surrounding buildings that seemed to go on forever. The hardwood floors were freshly shined and buffed; you could smell the finish the janitors used from the night before.

The sunlight coming from the high windows bounced off the wood-paneled walls. Other than the notifications of the stocks rising and falling on the monitors, the only sound you could hear were the pop and crackle of wood burning in the fireplace.

“Long time, no see,” Harrison smiled, standing up from his desk and extended his hand. His eyes were a piercing ice blue, but there’s warmth behind them. “Cassandra, could you please bring us two coffees?”

“Of course, Mr. Edward.” I slightly turned to watch Cassandra walk out of the room. “Nice view,” I remarked. Harrison raised his eyebrow. “How’s Shoshannah doing these days?” he asked, smirking. I laughed. “The same as ever.”

“Still the heartbreaker, eh?”

“No, not at all. Shoshannah keeps throwing hints at getting married, but that’s not going to happen anytime soon.” Harrison gave me a wistful look, undoubtedly looking back on his youth and mistakes he wishes he could’ve remedied, especially now with the problems that led to his moving out his family home and away from his wife.

“How are you? It’s good to see you.” I was genuinely happy to see Harrison. It doesn’t matter how old I get or how good of a player I become of the game; I always learn something new after meeting with him.

“Here, sit. I’m good. How was the flight? It’s been a long while since you’ve been home hasn’t it?” asked Harrison as he headed over to two leather sofas; probably worth the equivalent of a mortgage payment on my first high-end apartment. I nodded. “The flight was fine. And yes, I haven’t been home in nearly a year.”

“You’ve been home to New York in recent months, just not your parent’s home, is what you mean,” observed Harrison. I sighed, not wanting to get into the reasons I’ve avoided going to my parent’s house. Harrison already knew, for the most part, I just didn’t want to discuss the more recent problems I’ve encountered with my father.

“My mom isn’t in the city anyhow. I would see her, but she’s in Tokyo.”

“And Connor?” asked Harrison, wryly. I shook my head. “I haven’t talked to him; he doesn’t know I’m here,” I replied.

Harrison sat back and studied me for a moment. “Connor is certainly aware you’re here, don’t be mistaken. Akira’s in Tokyo, hmm. How are Richard and Ryan doing?” he asked, referring to my brother and sister. “I suppose they’re fine.” I hadn’t expected to see any of my family although I grew up in Manhattan and had many ties to the city. My brother Richard lived in DC and Ryan lived on the Upper West Side. None of us were exactly close. I had a feeling Harrison wasn’t done grilling me about my family just yet.

“You know I ran into your old man at the Met not too long ago. It was for the opening of Kennedey Leeds’ new collection. I spoke with the artist briefly and remembered she was somehow related to your mother’s cousins, the Powers brothers,” recalled Harrison.

“Yes, she’s the sister-in-law to my mother’s cousin, Jaylen Powers. Did you and my father speak?” I asked, even though I knew the answer. Harrison laughed. “No, not even a little bit. You know your daddy doesn’t care for me.”

“The feeling is mutual for you both,” I shrugged. It was good to see Harrison again, but I wanted to move our meeting along to discuss the reason I was here. Talking about my family, especially my father to anyone is not something I revel in.

Harrison sensed my agitation and changed our discussion to the business at hand. “As I told you before, the synergies from combining Grazier and Jupiter would be very profitable down the line. They’re better together than they are apart. Jupiter is undervalued, plus after my research, they have some issues with their latest application Cypher. Once I start buying shares, it will drive the price up. I’ll stay between twenty-nine and fifty-one to start. Just enough so Jupiter will see I mean to set about making changes. They need to reduce cost and fix the issues with their software. I’ll need a clearer picture of their debt as well. When I have a certain percentage, I’ll send a proxy to the shareholders until I can get a specific amount of control. Most of their board if not all will be replaced. Once I sell my shares to Grazier when it’s most profitable, they’ll most likely remove everyone from Jupiter. Then I’ll get a seat on their newly formed board.”

The work of a real mastermind. I loved how Harrison’s mind worked. “It’s a smart plan. Once I hear news of some unexpected early morning raid, I’ll know the play’s in motion,” I said.

Harrison wryly laughed. “There could be a spot for you too,” he said, pointedly. Now that a board position for me was on the table, the stakes were even higher.

“It’s something I would have to review. If I were to take a position, it could risk a conflict of interest for current and future clients of TGS,” I replied. “I wouldn’t concern myself with that, Rico. If a conflict came up later, you have the option to recuse yourself from those dealings and delegate those responsibilities to your associates.” Harrison made a good point, but I’d have to think about what the implication could mean if I became a Grazier Technology board member in the distant future.

Grazier “technically” walked away from Jupiter after their last talks. If they voted to go after them, undoubtedly, Jupiter would employ whatever defense accessible to them to defend itself from a takeover, something Grazier didn’t want. They wouldn’t be expecting Harrison to come along and get the majority of their shares. I was sure once they saw Edward Capital had a significant amount of control, they wouldn’t have much choice but to adhere to any demands Harrison made.

It may seem Machiavellian to some, but the fact is that once everyone saw Harrison buying shares, it would create value for their shareholders. There’s a term in the business people like to refer to whenever they see that Harrison is interested in a company. It’s called the Edward Drive due to his ability to drive up the price and adding value to the shares of the companies he invests in. Jupiter won’t know right away of Harrison’s intention to sell off to Grazier once he fixed their internal issues and made the company more profitable.

It was just another Monday for Edward Capital. The firm bought and sold companies on a regular basis. Harrison had the insight to see where different companies are undervalued, in trouble, or doing well but could be better; he will get enough shares to advocate on behalf of shareholders to their board to bring about changes he wanted to see at those companies. Many dislike Harrison, but funny enough some of the people who hate him have great respect for him.

Harrison narrowed his eyes. “We need a closer look at Cypher, and any vulnerabilities it has that surely will cost Jupiter’s stock to go down were it made public. I don’t need to know how you’ll obtain this information, but I won’t go into a battle without being fully armed.” I nodded in agreement. Whatever Tanner found through his “research” it wouldn’t be enough since Cypher hasn’t gone to market. He could only look at the current data.

Once I got back to San Myshuno, I would follow up with my associate, Bash Banks. I sent him a text not too long ago telling him that I wanted to meet up. Jupiter not only undervalued their product, but they undervalued their employees in many ways. It’s not so much that I think Jupiter isn’t aware of Bash’s education and talent, they’re aware of his negative feelings. More likely than not in most corporate climates having an attitude with a sense of entitlement will get you nowhere fast.

Bash is young, but not too young where he should believe merely having degrees from specific schools is a guarantee of anything. He’ll only have one shot with me; I won’t tolerate ineptitude.

******************************

I left New York only hours after meeting with Harrison. I texted Bash telling him to meet me at Georgio’s the following afternoon. He didn’t need to know the specifics of Harrison’s involvement nor his plans for Jupiter once he held a controlling interest.

Not only did I want Bash to give me the information on Cypher technology and other data systems, but I also wanted to gauge what his thinking was like. Sometimes bitter people act out irrationally and make less than smart decisions. If the sting of being passed up for this latest promotion heavily weighed on him, I couldn’t count on Bash to watch his step and not make a big mistake that could put everything at risk.

I stepped into the lounge at Georgio’s where I found Bash sitting across the room near a window. I specifically chose this location because it was out of the way and there was a better chance we wouldn’t run into a lot of people. The atmosphere was quiet; not many patrons had made it from downtown, which was just about twenty-five minutes from here. Georgio’s was more or less on the upscale side, but not in an unattainable way.

Bash spotted me and gave a short wave. He was here before me, which is good. I didn’t see he had a drink already. “How long has he been here?” I asked Roger, one of the servers and a longtime spy. “Not long, less than ten minutes.” I nodded. Getting here too early would signal desperation, it was good for Bash that he hadn’t committed such a transgression, yet.

I headed to Bash’s table and frowned. After we exchanged pleasantries, I got right to my first point. “Sebastian, let me give you a pro tip. When you’re meeting someone for business, especially when that person is of higher rank and standing than you, wear a tie.” I was aware that people in tech, usually didn’t dress to the nines for work, but one must always be prepared, especially if they know they have an important meeting to attend.

A look of embarrassment briefly spread over Bash’s face, he shifted uncomfortably. “I, uh, I-I’m sorry. I came here after work,” he stammered. His nervousness would need to get in check, but at least Bash didn’t break eye contact with me. Shoshannah told me years ago that like her father, I intimidated people. She claimed that when I met the judge and didn’t cower like most guys our age, her love for me was cemented. I took that with a grain of salt, as she proclaimed the same thing after we first had sex and I gave her five orgasms in a row. It wasn’t even my best work yet.

“From here on out, when I meet with you, don’t worry about it. I’m just getting you ready for game-time,” I replied as I slid into my seat. Bash gave me a quizzical look, wondering if I’d been testing him and I was.

“I was surprised to get your text. Then I didn’t hear from you for a while,” said Bash. Roger came over and took our drink orders. I nodded. “I’ve had some things in the works for several weeks now. I heard about that last promotion you were passed over at work.” I kept my eyes laser-focused on Bash, waiting for his response. He dealt with many internal issues, mostly about race and class. While I can guarantee those things do play a part in corporate America, I know for a fact that isn’t the main reason Bash continues to get passed over for promotions. He’s too focused on bitterness and pettiness to see how his attitude can turn people off. I’ve known him for some years now and witnessed it first hand.

Bash is incredibly smart and gifted, and his talents aren’t utilized at Jupiter. He’s not exactly expendable which makes him highly qualified for the type of career he’s in, but it takes more than just your education and skills to climb the corporate ladder.

If I were going to use Bash for our attack on Jupiter, he’d need to get the chip off his shoulder. Once Harrison had controlling shares and made the company more profitable, Grazier would gain control. If Bash helped us with information on Cypher technology and the bugs in their system, I could guarantee he could move up to a much higher position once Grazier fully acquired Jupiter.

“Yeah, I can’t say I was completely surprised by not getting the promotion. All the tap dancing “they” want me to do, acting like I even had a chance. Never again,” scowled Bash.

I wasn’t the type to beat around the bush. “I wanted to discuss your future. I need to know if you’re in or out right now,” I said. A look of strong curiosity spread over Bash’s face. “What is this about?”

Roger walked back over to our table and set our drinks down. “Is there anything else I can get you?” he asked. I shook my head, no. Roger was a long-time informant in my network of spies I have placed all over the region. He didn’t know exactly why I had him watch Bash today nor the other people I keep tabs on, he just knew I paid him well like the others that report back to me.


“I told you, your future; whether you want to be on the losing team and go down with Jupiter or play for the winning side. For your protection, as well as others and mine, I can’t get into too many details. However, as events unfold in the media, you’ll begin to understand.” I replied.

Bash took a deep breath. “Well, I’ve always known you to be smart and capable, Rico. Everything you touch seems to turn to gold. I don’t normally enter into blind agreements, but yes. I’m in. I know different companies have made plans to merge with us. I can see the writing on the wall. If Jupiter is going down, I don’t want to be on that ship.”


“That’s good to know. Before I go any further, you need to pledge your complete loyalty to me; your resolve must be unassailable. I can’t have any doubts and neither can you.” Bash earnestly nodded in agreement. “I understand, Rico. You have my loyalty.”

I informed Bash that I needed specific information on Cypher, the current data encryption software Jupiter was developing. I wanted to know what bugs the application had, what software or operating systems it wasn’t compatible with and what plans did the developers have to integrate it into their existing systems. Bash wouldn’t be engaging in anything illegal per se by obtaining information he already had access to. Nor contributing to any “insider trading” for Harrison’s benefit.

We at Thomas Global wanted to know exactly what we were dealing with. If I wanted this takeover to go as smooth as possible, we would need to know the areas to target first and foremost when it came to dealing with Jupiter’s board of directors. Harrison will want to replace them eventually, but he couldn’t on day one.

If Jupiter even smelled Grazier in the vicinity or knew they were resolved to acquiring them once it was in Harrison’s control, they would fight dirty. They wouldn’t want to destroy themselves internally, but they don’t have the capital for a “pac” defense, they could and would find a white knight. I would do everything in my power to stop that from happening. We’re going to the mattresses.

After I left Bash and paid the check, I headed downstairs for my car service and driver I periodically use when I travel to meetings.

I pulled out my cell phone and sent a single text to Cressida: Line up the mattresses.

 

****Author’s Note: Be sure to check out our Facebook group for writers for previews and character updates before they’re posted to this blog Sims of Color Stories

****Check out Rico, Harrison, and Bash’s biographies in the character bio index 

****You can check out some background information on the artist Harrison mentioned, Kennedey Leeds in my first Sims story Reagan Leeds: Run The World. She’s the younger sister of Reagan and aunt to Marseille. This Is Only a Test highlights the opening of Kennedey’s first gallery in Isla Paradiso.

****The term “going to the mattresses” is a line from The Godfather, basically meaning going to war. 

My hostile takeover storyline contains elements of the power dynamics in the business world, I’ve always had a keen interest in. It’s taken a lot of research and my intense desire to develop this arc in GOP. I appreciate you all who “tune” in to read the story.

Thank you once again for reading and Happy Simming,

Camille

Let the Games Commence! Marseille Powers Begins Her Reign

Marseille has the Popularity Aspiration

Marseille’s Traits Are:

Cheerful, Insider, and Outgoing

Let Her Reign Commence!

You know her mother, you know her father, now Marseille Powers daughter of legendary supermodel/fashion designer Reagan Leeds-Powers and nightclub magnate Jaylen Powers climbs out of their shadows to establish her reign.

Many would reduce the existence of a privileged socialite to private schools, parties, and elite vacation destinations, but Marsy never desired the life of a kept rich girl. She excelled in college where she started a successful event planning company due to her wit and business acumen. Her company, City Girls Elite was a mere stepping stone.

Reagan Leeds has long dreamed of her oldest daughter following in her footsteps and taking over her companies, so when Marsy informs her mother of her desire to work for her father, she’s heartbroken. However, anyone who knows Reagan knows that she won’t readily accept defeat nor let a “broken heart” stop her from getting what she wants and what’s best for her heir.

It wasn’t always easy living under the public gaze of an international fashion legend, despite how close Marsy and her mother were. But she was still more like her father, Jaylen; forever on the party scene thus making nightclubs his business that’s earned hundreds of millions of dollars for Powers Enterprises.

Co-founder and co-CEO, Amarre Powers has tasked his niece with operating their newest nightclub expansion in San Myshuno. Tomo is an international nightclub, resort and hotel chain with five hundred locations worldwide. He sees the same intelligence and relentless ambition in Marsy as he does in himself; all she needs is someone to drive it out and mold it. Jaylen was never as power hungry as his brother, and he initially opposed Marsy taking on such massive task until Amarre assured him that she would get all the support and resources needed to make Tomo San Myshuno a success. It took some convincing, but Jaylen eventually signed off on his daughter’s promotion.

There’s one person who’s never welcomed the idea of Amarre molding Marsy, and that’s Reagan. Amarre and Reagan have often found themselves at odds over the years as he always pushed to expand Powers Enterprises with ruthless determination to conquer and remove their competitors and enemies alike at any cost. Reagan is very success driven herself and encourages her children to be the same way, but not to the extreme like her power-hungry brother-in-law. Soon enough she and Amarre ensue in a battle over Marsy’s career path.

Marsy is loyal to her family and will do anything to protect their interest. When enemies from the past and present begin to emerge determined to dismantle the Powers reign, she’s unequipped with the arsenal required to fight them. Fearing failure and disappointing her father and uncle, Marsy turns to Amarre who tells her she must be relentless to silence all enemies.

For the protection and advancement of her family legacy, Marsy must become a skilled and merciless player of the game. Amarre instructs her in no uncertain terms to start treating the game like the bloodsport it truly is.

Not everyone is equipped to pay the price for winning the many games of power. Long live her reign.

****Marseille Powers is a legacy member of my most important dynasty; the Leeds and Powers dynasty. Through the Leeds and Powers family branches, all my stories and several characters were created. Her mother, Reagan Leeds-Powers has been the center of my Sims Universe for several years. She’s the protagonist of my first full epic Sims story, Reagan Leeds: Run The World. It’s because of that story I’ve been able to create so many complex characters and storylines. It’s a great pleasure for me to continue Reagan’s legacy through her oldest daughter. 

****Check out Marseille’s featured layout and interview with S.H.E magazine and her December 2017 cover.

****Read about the beginning of Tomo Nightclub in chapter 20 Steelo Part I. This is when Reagan and Jaylen meet for the first time. You can also read about Marsy’s birth in chapter 38 And Baby Makes Three. Be sure to check out Amarre’s POVs as part of the Expanded Universe of Reagan Leeds: Run The World. 

 

Thank you,

Camille

 

Quarterback Colin Stone Takes on the Upper Echelon of Power in the NFL

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Colin has the Fortune Aspiration

Colin’s traits are: Active, Materialistic, and Bro

Colin Stone is the star quarterback for the San Myshuno Panthers. Being a star athlete gave Colin and his family access to a life they could only dream about when he was growing up. His father, Aubrey made good money from his tattoo chain and online business, but he did the bare minimum when it came to being in Colin’s life. Malika, his mother, received a substantial amount of child support from Colin’s father but often had to use it to care for her other kids.

Colin always felt like he got the short end of the stick in comparison to his father’s other children and some ways his siblings he grew up with as well; until his family saw he had a natural gift with a football. From the time he was a freshman in high school, picking which college he would play for, and until the NFL draft, Malika relentlessly pushed her son to become a highly paid athlete. She knew her son was their ticket to get out from a life of struggle and scorn she faced at the hands of her family. Now the entire weight of the world is on Colin as he takes care of his mother and younger siblings.

He languishes in the party lifestyle befitting a famous athlete. Colin works hard in the NFL and likes to indulge in the many pleasures and luxuries only a certain amount of income can afford. His primary concern has always been about his money and caring for his family, as he refuses to bend over backward to help extended family members who shunned him, his mother, and siblings.

As someone who never cared for school or much else besides games and girls, Colin never had to think about life outside of having a successful career in football. He faces a battle as he renegotiates his contract and endorsement deals as the NFL landscape begins to mix entertainment and politics for many players.

Colin is thrust into the national spotlight, and everyone has an opinion on what choice he should make. He’s at a delicate point in his career when making the “wrong” move could anger TPTB (The powers that be) and cost him millions of dollars in the years to come. He seeks the advice from a powerful associate who tells him that sometimes one must “play by the rules until he’s in a position to change the rules.” Colin would love to own an NFL franchise one day affording him not only status and money, but power and influence over a game he dearly loves.

Colin must consider if the opportunity to grow wealth, influence, and power is more important than appeasing the faceless people on social media who wouldn’t choose what they’re demanding of him if the shoe were on the other foot. The lesson in learning how to play a game of power could be knowing when to pass, throw, or change the play altogether when you’re the one holding the ball.

****If you want to read about Colin’s parents, Malika and Aubrey, you can check out his auntie Briah’s story in the Expanded Universe of Reagan Leeds: Run The World.

Chapter 6 All Harm, All Foul

Marquez “Meech” Flex POV

(Sexual situations, language, no nudity)

“Where you been? You think I got all day to sit around waiting on your ass?” I had just walked into Lamar McQueen’s office in the Spice District. These days, he kept his headquarters at a number of locations to either ward off the police or the other cartels he’s been fighting over territory with for months. Currently, Lamar chose to meet with his crew in an old textile factory near the docks downtown. The area didn’t get a lot of traffic. Forty years ago, there were all sorts of manufacturing jobs in this area, now it was desolate.

I didn’t need to check my cell for the time, nor was I surprised by Lamar accusing me of being “late.” He wanted to show his lapdogs who was boss around here; trying to act like I’d wasted his time and him reprimanding me for it was his way of doing that. “Yesterday, you said to meet you at four; it’s four.” I sat down in a chair across from Lamar’s desk. I kept my eyes locked on his. I had no shame nor reason to be sorry. The man who is guilty or afraid will never look at you in the eye. Lamar stretched his torso upright so he could appear taller than me even when sitting down. His insecurity was open for all to see, but if he were smart, he would dead that shit. Lamar waited for an apology from me, but once he could see he wasn’t about to get one, he moved onto the reason I was called in for this meeting, although I could guess.

“It was three. Next time, don’t make me wait on you, nigga. I got more important things to do with my time,” replied Lama. His two lapdog bitches, CJ and Step or as I refer to them: Stepin Fetchit clapped their hands; doling out fake laughs. I guess you could call them his bodyguards or errand boys; either way, I didn’t give two shits about how they front.  If they didn’t keep they mouth shut, I would muzzle it.

“Our product ain’t movin’. Ever since the Latin gangs started to post up in Spice Lane, deals ain’t working out; muthafuckas is going elsewhere.  We can’t have that. It’s that Noriega bitch not watching her step and coming into areas that ain’t hers.” It took a while, but Lamar finally got around to telling me the reason he called me down here, but I knew this is what he would say. The Noriegas aren’t the reason our numbers are low.  While it was true, a number of smaller gang factions have been rising ever since our old boss, DM Sanders was executed less than two years ago, but Spice Lane has been under the control of Noriega’s street affiliates for years now. Lamar knew all of this in reality, but if he were to own that his bad decisions in the last eighteen months are the real reason our money flow has declined, he would have to admit that his rule was weak and ineffectual. I wasn’t worth it to me to point all of this out right now.

“So what are your plans?” I asked as if I didn’t know what Lamar’s move was going to be; he’s predictable. The expression on his face grew very dark; he knew that I would not agree with whatever plan he was about to present. Every day, I was starting to care less and less about giving a damn whether or not Lamar believed I was here to prop up his rule with my loyalty. He knew I wasn’t. All the same, Lamar expected loyalty from me because he “brought” me into the business and showed me the ropes. That would only get one so far with me, but I refuse to pledge complete allegiance to anyone I didn’t view as a strong leader, I didn’t care who the nigga was.

“The bitch has a shipment coming in soon. I got the goods on when and where. We’re gonna take it from her.” Lupita Noriega or “the bitch” as Lamar calls her was just as ruthless her father, Carmine Noriega. Their cartel controlled New Crest, one of the largest cities in the region. Ever since Carmine has been locked up awaiting trial, Lupita has been running his operations.

I contemplated what I would say to convey to Lamar that jacking anything of Noriega’s wasn’t the best idea right now. “Why would we need to make a move on the Noriegas? If Carmine gets out on bail, you can count on retaliation, even if he isn’t released out on bail you can count on Lupita’s revenge.”

Lamar ’s brow furrowed and lip curled up in agitation. He tried to give an air of confidence, but I knew him too well. His bad nerves made him sweat; it was taking a concerted effort on his part to keep control. Lamar rhythmically knocked his ring against the desk as his beady eyes seared into me. His countenance told me everything I already knew.

“They ain’t gonna let Carmine out, ever. He’s a flight risk; got too many connects that can get him out the country,” argued Lamar. “You can’t be sure. I heard they tryin’ to get him house arrest until trial. It’s a good possibility he will get it,” I replied.


“Well ain’t you the nigga with all the answers, huh? You got connects in the D.A. office. You need to make sure that fucker stays in jail!”

“Lamar, you’re asking me to call in a pretty big favor when my connection could be much more useful on something more significant than trying to keep Carmine Noriega in jail. Like I said, whether he’s in or out; you move on them, you can expect major heat from Lupita if you try them.  The product you talking about it ain’t even worth all that.” I reasoned.

“And how would you know exactly? It ain’t like I gave you any details. Unless you know something you ain’t telling me,” said Lamar. He was trying to insinuate that I was playing both sides. “I know nothing more than you. I just know if there is product that Lupita is allowing the little weak ass Spice Lane homies to handle, it ain’t worth that much. She would never allow some little ain’t shit bangers to be responsible for product that’s worth enough to go to war over.”

Whether or not I made sense to Lamar, he would not admit it. He wanted to show his weight to the bosses in the surrounding cities and the smaller factions in the four boroughs that have begun to rise against him. McQueen’s reign wasn’t secure, and when DM Sanders was killed, a lot of his loyal men left to start their own operations. Even if he got away with stealing one little insignificant shipment and was somehow able to get away with it, no one would give him respect because anyone in their right mind knows it’s a dumb ass move.

Lamar was determined to make a move against Lupita anyway; there wasn’t anything I could say that would change his mind. He laid down the specifics of the shipment to a warehouse not far from here and how he wanted me to go about stealing it and “cleaning up the mess” afterward. I’m not afraid of bloodshed, but it wasn’t necessary for this instance. If your way was to always move in violence, you get what you give in return, and sometimes the means didn’t justify the ends.

“Fine. We can have it your way, but expect a war,” I said after Lamar finished giving me the details. He had ordered my crew, The Thetas and me to put his plan into action. He couldn’t be bothered with getting his hands dirty even though this was his stupid scheme.


“You act like you so scared of those bastards, Meech. Fuck that hoe and her daddy! Just get it done!” Lamar raised himself up on the desk, simultaneously slamming his hands down. It took a lot for me to hold my breath and not sock him straight dead in his mouth. But I maintained my chill; my poker face and agreed to steal the shipment.

“Maybe you ain’t good for the job though. Ever since 5-0 ran up in your spot, nigga they watching you.” Lamar knew good and well the search conducted in my apartment a while ago wasn’t significant. The police wanted information on him, but more than that I knew agents on the task force were looking for more significant people than Lamar. “Nothing came out of that, which I told you it wouldn’t. I’m not dumb enough to get caught up by 5-0,” I replied. Lamar gave me a skeptical look. I’d given him the details after the popos left my house, but I don’t think he trusted I told him everything, and he was right because I didn’t.

There were all kinds of ways this operation could turn out bad, and I had to think about plan b, so neither I or any of my boys ended up dead over some shit that wasn’t even worth it. There’s a balance I had to maintain. No, Lamar isn’t a good leader, and my respect for him is all but gone. But I couldn’t openly defy him on orders he’s directed. He wasn’t entirely without power; not yet. Lamar, whether I liked it or not, was still the boss; a boss I faked allegiance to.  For now, that was my position, until I could make better moves, I would play by the rules.

*****************

I lit my blunt, the lighter briefly illuminated my otherwise darkened living room. My conversation earlier with Lamar had been on my mind ever since I left his office. Everything in me said going after a Noriega shipment wasn’t a smart move. What you have to understand about me is, I’m not the type of nigga that makes a play based on some stupid shit. Lamar wanted to flex so to speak and let the Ivanovs who ran Windenburg, The Noriegas, The Costas of Willow Creek, and Bobby Wilds who ran Oasis Springs that he had balls and was willing to challenge them if they made any attempts to take over the four boroughs which consisted of Uptown, Fashion Row, The Spice District, and Art of the City.

Lamar hadn’t cemented his reign as genuinely legitimate yet, and the other outfits were going to try him. But what he didn’t need to do was make any first moves; it wasn’t the time. I can count the number of occasions Lamar has taken me aside with some half-ass plan to either push our product or retain the territories left by DM. He had a lot of bold ideas; unfortunately, most of them were dumb as fuck. He’s gonna play around and get people killed unnecessarily.

I took a long hit of my blunt and walked over to the window. I had some of the best views of the city from my apartment. San Myshuno is expansive. Millions of people lived here. I thought about all the neighborhoods I used to slang in when DM was still the boss. I was pretty much solo at the time as far as pushing weight. I’d known Lamar from the block for years, and he brought me into the Sanders outfit. I quickly rose through the ranks because I was no dummy. I negotiated the best deals for the product and made our organization a lot of money in the process. DM could see that, and soon enough I was nearly at Lamar’s level, which I felt he resented. If DM hadn’t been shot before he could name a successor, I believe he would have chosen me over Lamar.

One of DM’s sons, Kao could’ve been a consideration too, but he fell out with his dad years ago and rarely came around. I didn’t know Kao’s whereabouts. The last time I saw him was at his dad’s funeral. He seemed to have disappeared after that. If Kao came back right now, I think he could quickly get support from Sanders loyalists and get the business back from Lamar, but who’s to say he was about this life anymore.

My doorbell rang, snapping me back to the present. It was after midnight. Vistors coming and going at all hours of the night wasn’t unusual for me.  I clicked a remote; turning on the lights. “Who is it?” I asked. “It’s me. Open up,” said Ekko, from the hallway. I unlocked the door; letting her inside. I  held onto the doorknob; taking a breath. I’d forgotten she told me she was coming back in town tonight from New York. Ekko was always doing the most, and I wasn’t in the mood to deal with her.

Ekko is my “girlfriend.” Actually, what she had was the privilege of being my main chick. She knew what was up and that I saw other women. Ekko is a bad as fuck Blasian model, so I claim her and the other girls I deal with know they place.

Ekko was wearing no less than four-inch heels, stepped up, reaching her lips to mine. Her kiss was warm and her lips soft, but I didn’t return the favor.  “I missed you,” she said. I feigned like I had missed her too when in reality I’ve been too busy to notice she hasn’t been in town for the last week.

“How was New York?” I asked. Ekko was originally born and raised in Manhattan, and that’s where her parents currently live. “Good. I saw my parents, and just about everyone else. I met up with Marseille at Tomo. Her uncle is actually bringing her out here with him and my dad to review the new club building inspections. I still can’t believe Amarre Powers is entrusting his niece with running the most anticipated new club in San Myshuno. Not to mention Marsy’s dad is on board as well. She’s so fucking spoiled.” Ekko accusing someone else of being spoiled was the pot calling the kettle black.

Ekko had followed me over to the couch and went on about her trip and bored me with the details of her escapades with the rest of the bougie ass socialites and models she grew up with. I hadn’t met most of her friends. She preferred to not take me around them or her parents if they were in town from New York because of my lifestyle. That was fine with me because the last thing I felt like doing was sitting up with a bunch of silver spoon bitches that spent their summer weekends in the Hamptons and Martha’s Vineyard.

As beautiful as she is, Ekko can be extremely jealous of other females. The more she talked about her so-called “oldest friend” Marseille moving to San Myshuno, the more I could see the jealousy stirring inside her. She had managed to briefly distract me from work and what Lamar wanted me to do in a few days. But what I needed was to stay focused so I could get the job done without getting a bullet in the heads of my crew and me.

I had to distract Ekko for the rest of the night. What she needed was a good dickin’ down so she could shut the fuck up about shit I couldn’t care less about. After smoking this blunt, the last thing I wanted to hear was her yapping in my ear. I wasn’t with the shit, not tonight.

 

****Author’s Note: The title of this chapter “All Harm, All Foul” is supposed to convey the opposite of the common phrase “No Harm, No Foul”. Basically, the meaning is that when one commits a mistake, transgression or engaged in misconduct, they would be forgiven/excused because it didn’t harm anyone. The opposite is true of the McQueen situation. His plans for action against the Noriegas will cause harm to people, especially because it’s unnecessary. This isn’t the first time McQueen has stepped out of bounds since forming his cartel and it won’t be the last.

****If you want to read about Marquez’s background, check out his bio here. I edited some information out of his original bio because I felt like it gave maybe too much of his future storyline away.  You can also read about Lupita Noriega, another main character coming into the story in the near future here.

Thanks for reading.

Happy Simming, Camille. 

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Lupita Noriega Drives Up the Stakes for Power During The Cartel Wars

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Lupita has the Deviance Aspiration

Lupita’s traits are: Ambitious, Hot-Headed, and Materialistic

Lupita Noriega is the daughter of the ruthless and notorious leader of the Noriega Cartel that runs New Crest. She is second in command to her father, Carmine and is favored by him over her siblings, including her older more experienced brothers.

Since her father’s arrest and while he awaits trial, Lupita has been given the task of running The Noriega’s multi-state operations. It’s a demanding task for anyone, but Carmine has full confidence in his daughter’s abilities. Lupita is highly intelligent, speaks multiple languages,  and very business savvy. Born in Miami; she was educated at some of the best European boarding schools. Once she graduated early, she returned to the US and received a bachelor’s in Political Science from Yale University at 20 years old.

Lupita is extremely beautiful, charming and witty, but don’t let outward appearances fool you. She is as cutthroat and ruthless as her father and won’t hesitate to cut down anyone who presents as an enemy to the Noriegas. Lupita is known as Bonita Perra, and even men older than her are terrified of what she would do if they were to cross her. She has reason to be so protective of her family. When Lupita was in elementary school, she watched as assailants meant for her father stormed into their vacation home and shot down her mother, Griselda Reyes in cold blood.

The underworld has been in chaos for some time, ever since the events leading to the execution of San Myshuno boss, D.M. Sanders, everyone has been eager to take over the city and destroy the newly formed McQueen cartel that has claimed the four boroughs (Uptown, The Spice District, Fashion Row, and Art of the City) of San Myshuno.

While the other bosses of Willow Creek, Windenburg, and Oasis Springs are making moves to take out McQueen’s hold on San Myshuno, Lupita knows it’s a delicate time for her father’s operations. He is being charged with multiple federal and state crimes and he’s wanted in several countries. The other bosses know she’s vulnerable right now.

Lupita walks a fine line between upsetting other outfit leaders and keeping the Noriegas in control of New Crest. Don’t be mistaken, Lupita may not be jumping on the bandwagon to join the ensuing cartel wars yet, but she won’t hesitate to spill blood if her enemies get too close to home. She is waiting for just the right time to make her move on McQueen and his underbosses. She intends to play nice for now, for they won’t see her coming. The stakes are ever high, but Lupita is waiting on the sidelines until it’s time for her take her full position in the arena. All those in the underworld better get prepared because Lupita is a master at playing the game of power and she doesn’t like to lose.

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Chapter 5 Death to The Instagram “Model”

Ayana Dinha’s POV

 

I peered through the lens of my camera at the two models engaged in multiple poses; working every angle of their faces and bodies. I quickly glanced out the window, hoping I would finish before losing natural light. Miko and Klaudia were here in my home studio participating in a shoot for a new feature in S.H.E, my online magazine. Ekko and Sade, the other models, were sitting along the wall whispering in a hushed tone among each other. Occasionally, I heard a small snicker escape from Ekko’s mouth. Whatever little negative jabs they were shared between the both of them, seemed to bolster Sade’s amusement.

I’d worked with them before during my own days in front of the camera. Each girl had a different skin tone, so I had to be careful about the light and colors that bounced off their skin from my blue background. Ekko had a light caramel skin with warm undertones. Sade’s skin was a creamy dark coffee complexion. Miko whose Korean skin was more yellowish, but she was slightly lighter than Klaudia with her inherited dark Eastern European features. The ladies each had a unique look about them that stood out; they were perfect for the vision I had.

I’m a perfectionist by nature, and I worried that if I didn’t have every single detail perfect, not only would this project fail, but my entire magazine would cease to exist. “How did the fabric feel?” I called over to Miko. “Good. It’s wearable; nice structure,” she replied. “Some of these designers have come a long way since their early collections. Charo and Parazzo are finally spending the money on better quality fabrics,” snarked Klaudia.

Today we were shooting a nude clothing look with an array of pieces from multiple designers. I had to struggle for months to set up this feature with Taylor Wheland, the executive director of the San Myshuno Nu Model Management branch. She didn’t take my calls for over a month until Ekko asked her mother, former supermodel Aoki Takashi for a personal favor. Taylor worked with Aoki over two decades ago and was mostly responsible for catapulting her career and cementing her as the most successful Asian American supermodel. She considered my magazine small-time compared to the major players she dealt with on a regular basis. Taylor worked with the best, not to mention supermodel legend, Reagan Leeds-Powers.

The nude feature probably wouldn’t have taken so long to organize if I’d gone with Parminder’s suggestion of hiring popular Instagram models. I didn’t want to go in that direction because my brand is traditional classic modeling. So many formerly respectable publications have been bowing to these fake social media models instead of keeping fashion modeling what it should be: authentic real supermodels that are household names. Not your everyday round-the-way girl with ass shots, lip fillers, and fifty pounds of weave. That’s just on the more urban side of IG fashion girls; I can’t say most high-end magazines are turning to, but reality stars who are only famous for being famous are front and center in Vogue, Elle and walking for some of the most prominent fashion houses during fashion week.

Sade and Miko were industry friends of mine. I’ve known them for years. We walked some of the same runways at fashion week all over the world. Ekko is my friend outside of the industry, and we see each other with some frequency outside of work. After a break in shooting, I was busy trying to change the lighting for Ekko and Sade when Sade stormed over to Parminder Patel and complained that the pieces she chose weren’t flattering on her skin tone.

“Why would give me something this fucking drab?” snapped Sade. I looked at Parminder, who looked like she wanted to slap Sade across her face. Sade’s diva-like attitude was nothing new.

“We’re doing a nude colors shoot. The tone varies from shade to shade. I wanted to try out different swatches on you. I believe the pieces I gave you, work well,” answered Parminder through gritted teeth. Sade scoffed. “You’re obviously wrong, sweetie. When it comes to knowing your job, you are a novice. Ayana, what the hell am I supposed to do with this shit?”

Parminder’s face grew more distorted as Sade continued to berate her. I signaled with my head for Parminder to take a breather. While I considered Sade to be a friend, she was also an unbelievably demanding and domineering diva. “What is the problem, Sade?” I asked, trying to hide the exasperation in my voice.

“Your assistant is the problem! Why is she styling your shoot if she’s just an assistant? Can I get my fucking Starbucks I asked for over an hour ago?” demanded Sade. Ekko and Klaudia snickered. I rolled my eyes. “For one, we all wear many hats around here. Parminder is another editor and helps with most of the functions for my magazine. Fetching coffee isn’t her job, Sade, but a courtesy. Can we just get back to this? I think we can do away with the lighter nude shades and choose one that with more browns in it. The truth is, all the shades go nicely with your skin tone, Sade because it contrasts so well.”

Sade knew Parminder was no “assistant”  in the traditional sense. Not only was she my best friend and roommate, but Parminder was the Editor-at-Large of S.H.E magazine.

“Fine,” said Sade; angrily grabbing the garments from me to try on. Ekko, Miko, and Klaudia remained mostly quiet throughout Sade’s latest outburst, except for a few shady giggles directed at Parminder. I breathed a sigh of relief when Sade went to go and change into her jumpsuit. All I wanted to do was finish the shoot.

One thing I have noticed since conducting my shoots is that it’s much different when you are behind the camera as opposed to in front of it. I photographed most of my shoots for S.H.E myself, which saved me money when I could. That meant no camera assistant and many times it was just me styling the models. Parminder helped out when she could, but she had several other magazine responsibilities. I worked with other photographers and used stock images, but for specific features, I preferred to use my personal shots.

I needed capital to hire a proper staff and not have to play makeup artist, stylist, photographer, lighting guru, creative director, and photo editor all at the same time. Until then, it is something with which I must contend. I virtually had no money from the extras and tools I needed to grow S.H.E, so I was stuck with cutting corners where I could and robbing Peter to pay Paul each month. I did what I had to do to keep S.H.E alive. But I could only live on my savings and the money Parminder generously gave me that she had received from her parents.

I don’t think Mr. and Mrs. Patel would approve if they knew a considerable part of the allowance they sent Parminder each month went to paying S.H.Es bills, but what they didn’t know wouldn’t hurt them, she claimed. At least Parminder had her parent’s assistance. The last thing I could ever expect from my mother and father was any financial help. They never approved of my career in fashion. Once I decided dropped out of college to pursue modeling, the checks dried up.

For the rest of the afternoon, Sade continued to complain about one thing or another. Either the clothes weren’t fitting right, she wanted a different outfit either one of the other models was wearing, or the shoot was taking too long. Sade was an up-and-coming Naomi with an attitude to match.

I turned on the stereo and raised the volume as high as I could stand; to drown out her whining.

Oooh, baby, baby
Baby, baby
Get up on this!

Salt and Pepa’s here, and we’re in effect
Want you to push it, babe
Coolin’ by day then at night working up a sweat
C’mon girls, let’s go show the guys that we know
How to become number one in a hot party show
Now push it
Ah, push it, push it good
Ah, push it, push it real good…

Yo, yo, yo, yo, baby-pop
Yeah, you come here, gimme a kiss
Better make it fast or else I’m gonna get pissed
Can’t you hear the music’s pumpin’ hard like I wish you would?
Now push it

************************

Once we wrapped, I couldn’t get the models out of my studio fast enough. Now I could look forward to having a bit of quiet while I went over the film. I spoke too soon. “Sade is freaking rude. I don’t see how you can be her friend,” said Parminder, walking into my office. She stubbornly folded her arms across her chest, ready to put up a fight if I were to respond in protest.

I didn’t have the energy to get into an argument with Parminder after what had been a draining day. I had tension in my neck and I could feel the pounding of a migraine coming on. I ran my hands over my face and stood silently for a moment as I tried to piece my words carefully together.

“She just likes things a certain way. Ignore her, and she’ll shut up.”

Parminder gave me a doubtful look. “That will never work with someone like Sade. She thrives on drama and acts like she’s the only one who matters in the room. The next time you choose to work with her, I don’t want to be involved. I won’t deal with her ass anymore.”

I didn’t need this from Parminder right now. She knew damn well I didn’t have a lot of funds to hire outside help for most of my projects. She was only thinking of herself. I swear it was like I had to do everything with zero support.

“Ayana, we need to talk about the expenses for the month. Every time I bring it up, you keep putting me off,” said Parminder, her eyebrow raised, as if she were challenging me. I could feel my stomach turning as a sense of dread swept over my body. I anticipated this conversation with Parminder for weeks, but I continually put it in the back of my head.

Every month it was the same thing. Parminder liked to tell me that S.H.E was barely breaking even through the advertising revenue and bills and other expenses.

“Can’t we talk about this tomorrow? I am editing film right now,” I said, attempting to put off discussing money. “No, Ayana we need to talk about our financial health. I know you’ve been dipping into your savings and paying bills on your credit cards. Getting money from my father, usually isn’t a problem, but he’s starting to question where all the money is going since I have to ask him for it a lot more these days,” said Parminder.

“It’s not like I ever asked you to get money from your dad,” I replied, turning away from her.

“Maybe not, but how else would we have been able to pay for the new camera equipment and the millions of other things we’ve needed? You also won’t take my suggestion and start featuring my social media starts and models. I know you want S.H.E to be a classic fashion and lifestyle magazine, but unless you’re Vogue or another major magazine, that mentality doesn’t work these days. We need to expand our presence on social media. We need to broaden our reader base,” said Parminder.

I finally turned around to face Parminder. I took a breath in an attempt to calm my nerves. Every time we talked about social media; things got heated. “Look, I’m not trying to cheapen my brand by inviting the latest skinny tea pusher to be featured in my mag. I was a real authentic high fashion model. I worked with some of the top designers in San Myshuno, New York, Milan, Paris, and London. These fake build-a-body, waist-trainer sales girls don’t do anything but take selfies and that over-inflated bought asses and pose with the latest rapper they’re screwing. S.H.E will never be that.”

Parminder rolled her eyes. “I am not talking about those IG thots, but a lot of them have huge a follower count. Instagram has a lot more models than the ones you just described. There are several of fashion blogs that got their start on Instagram as well. Right now, S.H.E only has two hundred thousand followers; it should be at a million or more by now. We need to reach out and collaborate with other people, the girls with a million plus followers to push the magazine. We can’t do this all alone, Ayana. I know this is not your vision for S.H.E, but the bigger we get, the more we will be able to do. Sometimes you have to sacrifice things to get ahead.”

I shook my head. Not because I disagreed with everything Parminder was saying. Some of what she said had a lot of truth to it. I just didn’t want to be a hypocrite and turn my magazine into something I hated. I’m all about class, style, taste, elegance. If I started inviting social media models and personalities into the S.H.E fold, I would lose a lot of what made me, me and what made S.H.E the magazine it is. This shit industry of social media famous models needed to die and true models needed to take back their reign.

Trying to create a successful magazine was beginning to take a  toll on my psyche. I’m not usually a snappy person. But I’ve experienced a lot of anxiety due to the stress of running S.H.E practically on my own. I was in dire straits. The bleaker our financial future looked, the more I knew something would have to give, and soon. I couldn’t go on like this.

*********************************

****Author’s Note: If you want to read more about Ayana’s background, check out her character biography here.

****You can check out S.H.E magazine online here. I created it in 2016 as part of another story I was going to write for Ayana at the time. 

My further commentary: Ayana feels the same way real life supermodels, and people in the fashion world do about the rise of “social media modeling.” A lot of people believe it cheapens the institution of high fashion altogether. But others have recognized that many popular blogs got their start on social media, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Ayana will have to realize she needs to get with the times if she wants to see S.H.E become a success.  In other words, this is Ayana’s view. 

***and yes, I have IG Sim model characters who will take issue with Ayana and her stance on what “true modeling” is.  

 ****Lyrics credit to Salt n Pepa

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