This is the ninth installment of “LiveCell” by Belfast author Eric Green. You can find the previous installments on VillageSoup.com (Soup Select subscribers only). “LiveCell” is also available in local stores or from online bookstores. To learn more about the “LiveCell” contest and win cash or artwork, go to cadentpublishing.com/contest.

In the last installment, Mary lost the pool tournament by following Nick’s advice to play safe. Four days later, after an intense week, she is headed for work early to confront Jay.

 

Chapter Four, First Section

 

Friday morning she awoke before her alarm went off and lay there tired. Last night, that dream again. For months now, about every dozen days, the dream returned. It always ended with his head on her chest, Mary crying as she gently stroked his brow with her fingers. Now she believed he might be Jay Chevalier.

Her hand appeared out of the sheets, and she switched off the alarm, turned on the radio. “….stupid and contagious,” she heard, “here we are now, entertain us,” and the band exploded into electric fury. God, Nirvana had such a sense of dynamics, building tension by withholding. Such a simple concept, though like many simple things, they only seem simple after you understand them. But to think of them first, that’s the difficult part, she thought, and got out of bed.

She walked into the kitchen naked, still a little sweaty from her night of dreams. Adhering to her workday ritual, she filled and switched on her coffee grinder, that irritating whine. She shut off the machine and lifted it to her nose, the reassuring aroma of French Roast beans. It seemed like the first casual thing she’d done in four days. She poured boiling water over the coffee and watched it drip for a moment, then walked to the window. Outside, as dawn began its slow focus, early-morning mist wreathed the few eucalyptus trees that bordered her un-mown yard. She gazed idly at the fog and shivered, her eyes no longer seeing anything.

Jay Chevalier had more energy than anyone she’d ever been around, and if there’d been a clue on Monday what her week would be like, she would’ve forgone the pool tournament and headed to bed early. Entering the Harcourt Building on Tuesday morning, punctually and without incident, there was the smell of paint in the elevator. Jay had painters redoing the walls, each floor a different color. A soft rust on four where reception was, a gray-mauve surrounding the computer cubicles on five, and for the executive offices, a muted sage-green similar to the old lounge color, though to her eye a more refined hue. The lounge itself he left alone. The new colors, along with the removal of the paintings, transformed the place. It was now LiveCell.

At Tuesday morning’s meeting, Jay insisted she head up the entire advertising department, though she argued for hiring an outside professional firm. From head web-designer to advertising manager seemed like too much of a jump. “We’ll try it and see how it goes,” he said. So she not only had this new website to design, but ads to formulate: Print, newspaper, radio, TV, bus cards; there were people to interview and hire, drawing from inside the firm if she could. She’d never had so much responsibility. On Wednesday, he handed her an envelope and said, “Get the Porsche back if you want.” How had he known about her Porsche? But she didn’t have time to think about leasing a new car. On Thursday she told him she wasn’t sure she could handle the job. “I have faith in you, please have faith in me,” was his reply. Not knowing quite what he meant, she went back to work.

Now on Friday morning, waiting in line for the Bay Bridge toll, she listened to the radio again. With her FasTrak renewed, the wait was brief this early, nice to have money again. Her rental car had clear speakers and an emphatic horn. As she scanned through different radio stations, she heard something, and her finger locked it in:

“…. and in financial news today, the new firm LiveCell, which recently acquired Clicksave.com, says it has a new telephone that it’s bringing to the market place. The new phone apparently works on a completely new technology, and allows for hand-held, static-free communication.” —s he recognized some of the copy, pleased that new was repeated four times — “I hear it utilizes paper cups and kite string but might lead to severe ear infections…. and now stay tuned for your Bay Area forecast.” The last line was slipped in by the announcer using a different tone of voice. A damn sarcastic tone.

On reaching the garage, she jerked the rental into her space and went directly to Jay’s office, the only room painted a burnt orange. She wasn’t sure about the color. His door was open, it was always kept open, and there he sat behind a large thirties-style battered oak desk that he’d had hauled in. Sentimental, he explained it. She knocked on the doorframe.

“Jay?”

He looked up and waved her in.

“Did you hear the news on the radio? From the press release?” she said.

“Duncan called me. He’s up early, too.”

“Jay, I did not write that copy. About the cups and string.”

“Kind of funny,” he said. “Mary, sit down. Don’t look so worried.”

She chose one of the mismatched chairs. Where had he unearthed all these relics? She had to admit she preferred them to Wendell’s chrome and white world, but there must be something in-between. She looked at Jay, able to look him in the eyes now. As the days passed, she’d been too busy working to contemplate other kinds of thoughts. They were still there nonetheless.

“We can only expect this kind of thing,” he said. “There will be ridicule; there will be controversy; there will be sabotage. To be expected. We have a new product and it must prove itself.”

“Do you think the radio announcer ad-libbed, or did someone write that copy?”

“Does it matter?”

“Doesn’t it?”

“Not to me.”

She wasn’t even sure now why it had bothered her, but on hearing it, she’d had a disquieting premonition.

“Are you okay?” he said.

She didn’t answer.

“Do you need to take the day off?”

She shook her head.

“This evening, where would be a good place to get a drink?”

“You drink?” Somehow she didn’t think he did.

“Sometimes wine.”

“You want a wine bar?”

“Where do you go?”

“Usually Jake’s. It’s a poolroom. I don’t think they have much wine.”

“We’ll go there then. Okay?”

“Jay, I don’t know anything about you. I shouldn’t tell you this, but Duncan has spent a few nights online trying to find out about you. He’s usually incredible at hacking information, but even he couldn’t find much.”

“What did he find?”

“You were born in Madawaska, Maine, in 1960. You went to Harvard at 17, went from undergrad to finish your doctorate in biochemistry in a record seven years. Then you seem to have disappeared.”

“And?”

“Is it so wrong to want to know something about your boss?”

“What do you want to know?” His eyes moved to the window. They appeared to focus on the one slice of blue bay between the buildings, or maybe she imagined it since that’s where she usually looked. He leaned back in his chair and folded his arms across his T-shirt. He always wears blue, she thought, wondering if maybe he did have some vanity.

“You don’t mind my asking?” she said. “I know I should get to work.”

“Why did you come in so early?”

“Well, I thought you might be here.” He knows.

“So let’s have our talk.”

“You really don’t mind?”

“What do you think?”

She searched him for a second. “I don’t understand where all the money’s coming from. Duncan couldn’t find any indication that you’re wealthy yourself. You don’t act rich, but then it can be hard to tell. Duncan thought you must have financial backing from somewhere. Is that true?”

“I recently sold a patent to Swatch in Switzerland.”

“One of the patents for the phone?”

“No. I didn’t patent the phone.”

“What? Why not?” His words brought her out of her chair. Everything rested on patents for the phone as far as she could tell.

“The phone’s cell makeup is not its only secret.”

“It isn’t?” She stood there, stunned. “Then what is?”

He didn’t answer.

“Whatever it is, it needs to be patented. All its innovations need to be patented. Believe me, otherwise it will be stolen and we’ll be out of business. Someone will be making it overseas for half the price in no time. Jay, I can’t believe this. We have to hire a patent attorney immediately.”

“It’s not possible. Please, sit down.”

She found her chair again. “I can’t help being upset. Patents for new inventions are imperative. You must know that.”

He held her with his calm look and she quieted outwardly, but it lessened none of her uneasiness. How could he leave himself so unprotected? It was crazy, insane. There was that fear again.

He continued to study her. “You’ll have to trust me.”

She nodded and looked away, trying to calm herself. Her entire future, all her financial dreams, rested on LiveCell’s success.

To be continued next week.