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The man that emerged from the car didn’t appear to take any notice of his surroundings. Steam plumed from his mouth in the frigid air as he walked toward the entrance. He was embarrassed by the bodyguards who immediately surrounded and ushered him into the eighty-story building and into the private elevator. Two remained at the elevator after the doors slid closed and stood impassively watching the lobby. When the elevator reached its destination the doors slid open directly to a suite of rooms. As he entered the rooms he turned to the two remaining men and dismissed them. “I’d like to be alone tonight guys if you don’t mind, I’m pretty tired and need some space.” “Sure Mr. Cobb, we’ll be right down stairs if you need anything.” Downstairs meant they would be on the next floor down from the penthouse. The two top floors were the private floors of Jared T. Cobb, owner and CEO of Cobb Enterprise. Lately he had felt like it was Cobb Prison’s Inc. It wasn’t as though he wasn’t grateful for what he had, God had blessed him with a talent and he had turned that talent into a billion dollar empire, one that had brought him as close as a man can get these days on cornering a market. The software that he designed made it possible for military hardware to communicate with out the conflicts that had plagued real-time computer systems for years. There were many different companies that provided the hardware that worked in various vehicles, controlled different weapons systems, and then communicated with still other systems manufactured by other companies. All these systems came with software of course that was theoretically compatible with other military systems. Of course theory very seldom had anything to do with an actual combat environment. For all the testing and real time exercises that were performed on the systems, when it came time for these same pieces of equipment to do their thing in combat they invariably had problems when trying to integrate one system with another as they were “designed” to do. Communication was slow and at times stopped all together. Of course many factors went into the deployment and success of the various systems the military used to engage an enemy. The bottom line however was that the stuff just didn’t perform up to standards. Jared Cobb had spent almost eight years at MIT in Massachusetts before being commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps. He joined the Marines just after Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein invaded his smaller and much weaker neighbor Kuwait. Of course his father thought him crazy even though he himself had fought in Korea and Vietnam, or maybe it was because he had fought in those wars he was so against his only son joining. To the elder Cobbs’ way of thinking Jared had too much potential to go and possibly get himself killed in the Marines. Why had he spent all that time at MIT if he was just going to throw it all away on some damn fool crusade in the Middle East? Jared Cobb was built to be a Marine, taller than his fathers’ six feet he seemed born to wear a military uniform. His dark eyes rarely smiled and his baritone voice was almost always at an even pitch. Marines under his direct authority always knew where they stood, there were never any tantrums or fits of anger. If one of them screwed up they knew by the look in Cobbs’ eyes and seldom made the same mistake twice. Jared’s job in the Marines was intelligence and where he learned first hand the equipment and software problems of the military. Almost immediately upon his return to the U.S. he began his hunt for an answer.
2 When his six-year obligation to the Marines was up Captain Cobb resigned his commission and resumed his mission to find an answer to the software problem plaguing military computer systems. At the age of thirty-two he found it and was immediately beset by Uncle Sam and manufacturers nation wide. The nature of his companies work was considered National Security-Sensitive and Jared’s circle of friends, never that big to begin with got even smaller. With the military contracts also came more money than one man could spend in ten lifetimes and Jared immediately hired people smarter than himself to manage his money, of course they had to have back ground investigations done on them before they could have access to his books. Five years and two contract renewals later he was one of America’s most eligible bachelors and featured on Fortune 500 magazine three times. Though he was under enormous amount of pressure to go public with his company that was something he flatly refused to do. He didn’t want a committee making his business decisions for him after all the work he had done to build up his company, and he liked the idea that his people (as he liked to call them) could come directly to him or Peter with their problems. As he walked toward the bar built into one whole wall Jared smiled ruefully to himself at the memory of Peter’s discomfort when Jared flatly refused to do another magazine cover. Time magazine had been after him for three months now and he had avoided them all he really could without looking like he had some thing to hide. He heard the ding of the elevator and turned just in time to see Peter step from the elevator. The man seemed never to sleep. “Jared I just got off the phone with Stanley Graves, he is pissed and is not happy about being stonewalled. I told him to give me a week and he said he’d already waited three months, he would give us three days and then he would use his own resources to write his story.” “You know what Peter, let him write his story using his own resources, I’m tired of being beholden to people other than those who work for me. And no I won’t do it for you either even though you work for me or are my closest friend. I’ve had enough of reporters and photo ops and questions about my personal life, anything worth knowing is already out there, what else is there to ask me, what color skivvies I wear? I’m not telling!” Peter stared at Jared as though he had said something bad about his mother. “What? Jared you got to be kidding me right? I mean you can’t tell Stanley Graves yes and then tell him no after three weeks, you can’t string guys like Graves along, he’ll…” “What Peter?” Jared demanded, “What is that self righteous, left wing witch hunter going to do? I own this company, I am the one who took all the risks, I used my own money to start this company and didn’t ask for any breaks, I made my own breaks and because I don’t want to go public with the company or sell to the bigger boys I’m accused of not playing fair, of “stonewalling” as you so succinctly put it. I prefer to call it keeping to myself, I call it invasion of privacy, I call it screw them, I’m not going to cave in any more and be so agreeable to their demands every time some reporter wants a piece of me, unless it’s some thing I agree to on my terms.”
3 “Okay Jared, I promise, no more interviews unless you say so after Graves, Jared just do this last one.” “I’m sorry Peter, but I’m not sorry. I’m not going to do it, not this time. I have to draw a line some wear and I’m drawing it here. Hey I pay you large sums of money to deal with the press so I guess you’ll have to deal with Graves. And if you don’t mind I really want to be alone tonight, no press, no bodyguards, and no P.R. guys either Peter.” That was Peters’ dismissal and he knew it, slowly he turned to leave wondering what he was going to tell Stanley Graves and suddenly feeling very sick of the whole thing himself. For Jared this was one more stick that was on the camels back and it was about to break. The urge to get away, just take off was almost over powering, but he knew he could not do something so irresponsible as that. But there was something he could do; he could take a vacation. He owned the company and that meant he could do any thing he wanted, theoretically. All he really had to do was get Peter back here and tell him what he was going to do. No, he couldn’t just up and leave, he had a business to run…wait, I can do it, I’m going to do it, I need to get out of here or I’m going to say the wrong thing to some innocent reporter who asks me some inane question about the Marine Corps. Jared grabbed his cell phone from the coat he was still wearing and punched in Peter’s number. The phone rang only twice when he heard, “Ya.” “Peter I need to see you up here again there is something I need to run by you.” “No problem Jared I’m right out side the building, did you rethink the Graves thing? Because I think that…” “Peter, hold on a second, don’t get your pants in a bunch I didn’t change my mind about that its some thing else and its more important to me than an interview, now do you want to be the head of my public relations twenty-four hours a day or would you like to be my friend once in a while like you use to be?” Peter caught the note of pain and anger in Jared’s voice and responded immediately. “Jared I’m sorry, I’ve just been sulking and wondering how to get my fat out of the fire with Graves and I’ll be honest I was hoping that you had changed your mind so I wouldn’t have to come up with something.” “Sorry Peter, your on your own on that one, you got yourself into it…” “Yeah I know and I think I know how to get my self out of it, I’ll see you in a minute.” When Peter stepped out of the elevator Jared was nowhere to be seen. “Jared?” “In here Peter, come on back.” “Jared I was thinking about something, I’m getting a little tired of these press things too and I’m tempted to tell Graves too bad, Mr. Cobb has changed his mind and decided not to do another interview at this time.” Jared answered. “You know some thing Peter, that is exactly what you ought to say to him.” “Well I just might do that. What did you need to see me…”? Peter stopped in mid sentence when he saw Jared Packing a suitcase. “What are you doing?” “Peter, I am taking a vacation. And before you blow a gasket let me fill you in on something, every thing is going fine. I have already checked with Jeanie and she said
4 that there isn’t any thing on my schedule that can’t be pushed back for a few weeks or so there…” “A few weeks? Where are you going, Disney Land? What do you mean things can be pushed back? I already told you I’d take care of Graves you don’t have to go and hide from the guy.” Jared stopped packing and looked up at Peter. “When have you ever known me to run away from some thing real Peter? The last person in the world I am running from is Stanley Graves. If you want to know the truth I’m running away from you, I’m running away from Jeanie and her little black book that controls most of my waking moments. I need a vacation Peter and I’m going to the cabin for a few weeks and you know what I’m going to do when I get there?” Jared didn’t wait for an answer. “What ever the hell I want that’s what. I’m going to go snowmobile, I’m going to chop some wood, and if the snow isn’t too high I might even ride my horses. I am taking a vacation Peter.” “Jared…” “Movies.” Jared began. “I don’t remember the last time I sat on my couch in front of my fireplace and watched a movie, boy that sounds like the best idea of all.” “Jared, I can have Max go and rent you a movie right now if…” “I don’t want Max to go and rent me a movie Peter, I own a whole library of movies and if that isn’t enough I can go and buy any movie I want, half the fun about watching a movie is going to pick it out yourself. Don’t you get it Peter? Don’t you get where I’m coming from with this? Because if you of all people don’t understand me than I’m in a lot of trouble here.” The whole time Jared had been speaking Peter was shaking his head in disbelief or denial, now he began nodding his head, not in resignation but in final and complete understanding. Jared Cobb did not get worked up over simple things like this and if it had come to the point where Jared was getting frazzled and raising his voice over some time off then there was a problem and he, Peter had just been told he was part of the problem. “Jared I’m sorry, I had no idea I was being such a jerk but obviously I have kind of lost sight of my job here which was mostly keeping these piranha away from you and instead I’ve been practically feeding you to them. Okay, what do you need from me?” “Basically all I need for you to do is hold down the fort while I’m gone, you know all aspects of the game and I obviously need some one I can trust here, hell before you did what you do you wrote software with me. I will always have my cell with me and you know there are no phones at the cabin. I will make sure the computer is always on so you can shoot me e-mail once a week to keep me posted. “Jared if things are that bad for you why don’t you take the ultimate vacation and drive to Montana, take a month, two months off its not like you can’t afford it. And you’re right I can handle things here. I promise I won’t rob you blind or sell any secrets to Microsoft, or the Japanese.” “Hey, don’t even joke about that stuff.” Jared smiled. “With our luck some one is bugging our systems and robbing us blind right now.” Jared quipped. “Yeah right,” answered Peter. “Like any one could bug your systems, Uncle Sam couldn’t bug your systems. Too bad you don’t put that software on the market; you could give the security guys a run for their money too.”
5 “Yeah, but if I did that then my stuff wouldn’t be as secure as it is now would it?” “Yeah I know but you would have more than one iron in the fire and if one got pulled out then you would have one to fall back on.” “Peter, I’m going on vacation, now when I come back I may be up to this conversation again, maybe. But I would have to write more security for our systems and that is not some thing I really want to think about right now. Look maybe when I come back I’ll think about hiring some more writers, maybe that will take the heat off a little.” “Alright Jared, but I want you to take more than three weeks, you haven’t taken any time off in six years, that’s got to do some thing to people, even people like you that eat and breath this stuff.” “Okay Peter, I’m going to go and buy the truck of my dreams tomorrow and after that I’m going to drive to Montana and Live like a monk for two months. Thanks man, I appreciate you holding this down for me.” “Hey, I appreciate that you trust all this to me, what other company would trust all this to their P.R. guy?” “Hey your not just a P.R. guy. You’re my best friend and you know that and you know this business just about as good as I do so don’t make this any mushier than you have to its only two months.” Peter started toward the elevator talking as he went. “You know, when you come back its my turn, I think I want to go to Cancun.” “You got it man, what ever you want, all paid.” Jared answered. “What a country man, only in America. I love life in America,” Peter said as he reached the elevator. “I’ll see you in two months man.” “See-ya Pete.” When Peter had left Jared finished up his packing, set the suitcases by the elevator and went to bed, setting his alarm for six A.M.
The streets of Boston are incredibly busy on weekdays, even in the winter time people are walking the side walks going to work, going shopping, catching buses, cabs, and the T, plus a hundred other things that go on in a major U.S. city. Jared got to the Ford Dealer in Somerville at nine in the morning, wanting to get things done with the truck as soon as possible. Jared wasn’t about to wear a suit to go buy a vehicle. They would only assume correctly that he had money and would drive a harder bargain. As the Boston Yellow Cab approached the dealership Jared noticed the long line of brand new trucks lined up right in front of the huge lot. He thanked the driver with a sizable tip and just as he thought there were no salesmen descending upon him from the building. He took his time looking over the trucks, and found himself returning again and again in his mind to a large Black F-250 he had noticed right away. He walked back over to it and that is when a salesman finally showed up. He had the board look of some one who knew a dead beat when he saw one but this was what he got paid for so here he was.
6 “Nice huh,” the board salesman said. “That truck suits you, I can tell. I’ve been doing this quite a while now and I know what I see when I see it. My name is Steve and I can help with any thing you need.” Jared chuckled softly to himself, but the smile never reached his eyes. “I see the sticker reads thirty-seven, I’m sure you guys can do better than that right?” “Well sir that truck has almost every feature you can think of, the winch alone would run you six grand as an after-market purchase. Want to take it for a spin?” The hopeful look in the mans eyes reminded Jared that this was after all the salesman’s job and he had noticed the ring on his finger. Jared was pretty sure it was the real thing and not some salesman’s ploy to curry sympathy with prospective buyers. “Yeah I want to try it out Steve, my name is Jared and if I decide to buy this truck I will write you a check for Thirty-three as soon as we get back because I need the truck today.” The look on the man’s face was worth the thirty grand. “However, Steve, I am not in the mood to quibble over four thousand dollars, so if you think that will pose a problem just let me know now and save us both a lot of time.” “Oh…uh…no…no sir, I don’t think that there will be a problem with your offer sir, not at all…uh…let me go and get the keys and I will be right back. Don…don’t go away I will be right back.” “I won’t move from this spot Steve, you just make sure and check with your boss and make sure the price is okay, I won’t pay a penny more.” “Yes sir, I mean no…no…no sir there won’t be any problem I promise you that.” “Well, go and get the keys then, I’ll be right here.” When the man came back, obviously still very nervous, Jared could tell he had something on his mind. “What’s wrong Steve you look like you are about to walk to your death.” “Mr. I…I…uh…the thing is sir my boss wants to…make sure that…” “That I can afford to write you a thirty-three thousand dollar check and not have it bounce from here to Waco Texas?” “Yes sir.” The man was very nervous now; sure he had lost a sale with this insult. But the truth was Jared was expecting this. He had called John Marsden last night and informed him what he was going to be doing today, so John was expecting a call of this sort today. Jared took a card from his wallet and handed it to Steve. “You give this card to your manager and tell him to call that number while we go and test drive this machine, and also tell him I want a runner standing by to take all the necessary paper work to the DMV, I was serious when I said I will need the truck today. If he can’t guarantee me that then I will take my business some where else.” Steve had relaxed now that he saw that Jared wasn’t going anywhere. “Oh Mr. Uh?” “Cobb,” Jared answered. “Mr. Cobb I promise you, the old man will do just about anything to make a cash sale of one of these babies I guarantee you every thing will be in top order, can you just write the name of your insurance company down on the card and we will take care of every thing.” When Jared had done that the man jogged back to the showroom and was back in no time. “Okay lets go.” Steve said, dollar signs in his eyes. When they returned to the dealership Jared was sure that this was the right truck. No vehicle was worth what you paid for these days but he didn’t have to worry about
7 the money part, and he seldom spent any of his money any way. He was always too busy working, now was not the time to fret over price tags. The paper work was all done when he walked into the manager’s office, all that was required of him was his signatures. He took his time reading over the warranty anyway though he basically knew that the entire truck was covered, at least for a while any way. “How long before I can have the truck?” Jared asked. “You can take it now sir, every thing is done. With your signature the sale is done, computers make these things a lot faster now.” “Oh yeah, I guess they do, it’s been quite a while since I bought a new car.” “Hey, if you don’t mind my asking what kind of commission does Steve get on this sale?” The manager got tight lipped all of a sudden and Jared reassured him he wasn’t being nosey, but he had noticed the ring on the young mans finger. “Oh yeah, well Steve’s wife is going to be real nice to him tonight and his kids are going to be extra good for a while I promise you that.” “Well I’m glad to hear that,’ said Jared. “He looked scared to death out there for a while.” “Yeah, well, I think the guys are giving him oxygen in the back room.” Quipped the manager. “Well, thanks a lot for all your help,” said Jared. “I have to get this show on the road so I’ll just be going, if you’ll just get my keys.” “No problem sir, I have them right here.” He handed the keys over to Jared and shook with his other hand. “Enjoy Mr. Cobb, and best of luck with the truck.” Jared thanked the man and walked out the door to his shining, brand new truck. The Ford was the first big purchase Jared had ever made for himself. Not counting anything he had bought for his business. He was very excited and could hardly wait to drive it. The big truck gave him the feeling of riding on top of every body else on the road. He had only a couple more stops to make and he could be on his way. The manager told Jared he had seven days to get an inspection sticker on the truck so he had to do that before he left, and he had to pick up some cold weather clothes and some other gear. Montana winters were legendary and he didn’t want to be unprepared. He would have to call Peter and have him call ahead and find some one to plow a road to the cabin. Even this big truck couldn’t hope to get through the piled up snow in that part of the country. Not to mention Jared had a lot to learn until he knew what there was to know about four-wheel drive.
Jared’s trip across country was basically uneventful. The Ford guy told him to change the oil at a thousand miles as part of the break-in process so he stopped at a Ford dealer just outside of Ohio and let them do their thing and then he was on his way once again. It was as though once he crossed into Illinois the snow began and didn’t let up. He didn’t mind, ever since he was a child he had loved the white stuff. His father had threatened to have his head examined for mental illness but relented when Jared, at twelve years old offered to shovel the driveway, for free, rather than play pond-hockey with his friends.
8 Of course one thing the snow did do was slow him down. Even with four-wheel drive he had to drive carefully. When you lose traction from driving too fast it doesn’t matter how many tires are spinning because all they are doing is…well, spinning, and doing that on TOP of the snow. Jared had put four 100-pound bags of sand in the back of his truck while in Ohio at the recommendation of the service tech who explained the relatively lightweight of a pickup’s tail end as opposed to a car or even SUV’s, though they aren’t much better. Driving at night, in the snow, makes it seem as though the snow is coming at you like a billion white darts and it can be quite hypnotic if you focus too much on the flakes themselves instead of the road and other vehicles. At one point in the night near Pierre South Dakota Jared had to pull over and clean his wipers as snow and ice had built up on them to the point of rendering them useless. The snow had been falling at a clip of two to three inches an hour for the past 150 miles.
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