The iBrotha

The Rodney O. Lain Archive

Apple's Stolen Mojo: A Hard-boiled Caper

With apologies to Mickey Spillane and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

Rodney O. Lain

This undated article was published on iBrotha, Rodney's own website that no longer exists. It is copyright 1997-98 by Rodney O. Lain. Links have been retained when possible, but many go to the Internet Wayback Machine.

There are no facts of life . . . only fiction.
 - from the television show "SeaQuest, DSV"


I knew the dame would be trouble as soon as she walked through the door.

Her name was Locke. Beth Locke. She wanted to avail herself of my services. But I knew her kind, so I wasn't buying her spiel.

"Lissen, toots. You's better try Mike Hammer, over on the east side," I tell her. "He likes high-tech cases like yours."

"But ya gotta help me, Sam. I'm willing to pay anything." She leans forward, pouts those big, red collagen-injected lips, then leans back, crossing and uncrossing her legs real seductive like, in a Sharon Stone "Basic Instinct" kinda way.

I'm a sucker for a nice set of gams, so she's got my undivided attention now.

She tells me she's on a mission for her boss. A famous computer huckster named Jobs. A real weirdo, if you ask me: he owns a fruit company that makes computers. This kinda weirdness would probably disturb any other private eye, but not me. I'd seen it all - necrophiliacs, cross dressers... Windows 2000 - you know, the really sick stuff. I've seen it all, and I can handle anything that comes my way. That's why I charge my clients the big bucks.

Anyway, this dame says she's Jobs' head lawyer. At the mention of lawyers, my right hand instinctively slips under my desk and cops a feel of my piece - a .45 Magnum I call "Attitude Adjuster" for obvious reasons. I don't take to shysters, so Attitude Adjuster gets my hand real warm and sweaty before I feel calm enough to take my hand from under the desk. Since this Locke chick is a good-looking broad - not to mention I need the money - I ease my hand off Attitude Adjuster and let her say her piece. I reach for Attitude Adjuster again when she asks me to trust her.

"We need you to do some scavenger hunting for us, Sam. It won't be a walk through the daisies, I tell ya. Do you have time to track down some wise guys who's been blabbin' company secrets?"

It sounds too easy. So I play the tough negotiator, pumping her for more info: "What's in it for me?"

"Enough dead presidents ta get ya away from this dump for a few months," she says, running her hand across my desk, collecting dust between her thumb and index finger.

"Stop that. You's ruinin' the day-kor."

"Oh, fer cryin' out loud, Sam! Stop tryin' ta be a comedian and help me out here, 'kay? It's just a small favor."

"That's the same thing you said 'bout that Xerox PARC job," I said, standing up. "And look what it got me. Everybody thinks I robbed their secrets for Apple. Ain't that a bleep? That was a fair-and square deal, and you know it. I delivered the stock transfer to them, just like Jobs told me. I don't see why you needed to buy anything from them: you guys already had the Mac OS developed and ready to ship. But you's guys still let me take the fall in the court of public opinion - not to mention you allowed the media to string me up by the family jewels. You bastards. You coulda cleared me up, but naw, you wanted to build a bad-boy image for your little company. You really wanna build your image? You should change that company logo. Multicolored Apple. Sheesh! And while you're at it, put 'Micro' or 'soft' into your company name. Then you're talkin' image."

She makes gagging sounds at that dig. It's been 12 years since Apple bought Microsoft outright from whiny Bill Gates. Everybody thought Apple should have capitalized on Microsoft's name by incorporating it into theirs. It's been a big debate ever since. Naturally, everybody thinks that I was part of some plan to blackmail Microsoft into selling out to Apple. That makes good news copy, so naturally, Apple played along once again - at my expense.

I never forgave 'em for that.

In a weak attempt at a peace offering, she offers me one of her Lucky Strikes. She lights it, takes a puff and hands it to me. "Lucky Strike" is right. As I taste her lipstick on the cancer stick, I wish I was that cigarette.

"I still don't know if I'm ya man, Miz Locke," I continue. "You know I don't work too good with shysters, if you remember."

"But you have to," she persists. "The boss asked for you by name. Besides, he still feels he owes you for that Xerox thing. Doing this one could more than make it up to you, in his mind, anyway."

"'Feels he owes' me? He'd better know he owes me. I did all his dirty work, yet I'm sittin' here barely making ends meet, while he lives like the golden child."

We argue some more, and after she hugs on me and makes me an offer I can't refuse - and one I know she'll never fulfill - we're on the way

Someone Is Stealing Their Mojo!

It seems her boss is in a wad over other companies copying their products. Every time his company releases a new product, the competition shamelessly apes it. It's an old trick, I chuckle to myself. Let your competitor do all of the hard work, then you come along and reap the benefits. Even I know that other companies refer to Apple Computer as their "R & D, West Coast."

After Locke leaves, I do some research (i.e. finishing off my half bottle of Jack Daniels), I go and round up the usual suspects

The first - and obvious - place to check is Oracle, Inc., a software company led by its flamboyant CEO Larry Ellison, Apple Board member and all-around loudmouth.

Ellison greets me with a big smile. He must practice it in the mirror, I think to myself. I don't waste any time and get to the point.

"Word on the street is that you been spilling Apple's company secrets on to Apple's biggest competitors."

"Come on, Sam! You can't believe that!"

"Why not? Everyone knows that you hated Microsoft. Now that Apple's gotten rid of them, it's only natural for you to turn your attention and hatred towards the only company that's bigger than yours. Seeing that Apple has gotten bigger than Microsoft, it only makes sense that you'd hate them now. It's human nature to need an enemy to rail against - real enemy or imagined."

"You need to lay off the Jack Daniels, Sam. I have nothing to gain from such nonsense. Besides, it's in my contract with the Board of Directors to divulge all company records if my company is a direct competitor with Apple. We cover this stuff every year."

I needed to shake that tree anyway, even though I knew Ellison was the only nut that'd drop. Just what I figured: he's clean.

For the next few days, I shake down every Silicon Valley stooley I know. And an interesting electronic paper trail turns up: hacks made into every Apple database across the country; hacks programmed by sloppy programmers; each Apple innovation pre-empted by vaporware announcements. I've seen this somewhere before...

I head back to my office, with a stock of additional research (a bottle of Thunderbird, 1979).

Scratching my five-o'clock-shadowed chin, it all begins to add up. There's only one person who could be stealing Apple's secrets...

"Sam, honey?"

I turn at the sound of Beth's voice. As soon as I do, I hear the floor creak behind me. Before I turn, a sharp blow strikes the back of my head, and the room goes black...

Et, tu?

"I never expected you to get this close."

I'm blind folded, but I still recognize the voice, and a whiff of Sand de Sable perfume confirms it.

"Beth, what the hell is this?"

"You were on to me, so I'm have to take you out, Sam."

"What the...?"

"Take off his blind fold, boys. I want him to see it all before he dies."

I'm blinded by the light in my face, but I can see Beth to my right. "Why are you doing this?" I ask, still not understanding what's transpiring.

Beth smiles at me and begins ripping off her clothes. Hey, I'm liking this. Then it gets real ugly, in a "The Crying Game" sorta way. She then begins to rip off her face, which is a mask, to reveal... Bill Gates.

One of his henchmen gives him a pair of taped up glasses, which he puts on.

"Yes, Sam, it's me, the source of all your misery."

"You're as deranged as they say. What do you mean, source of my misery? I never used Windows."

"I mean I am the one responsible for your being blamed for all of Apple's bad press in the past," Gates says. "I arranged it so that you were blamed for Xerox, and I persuaded Apple to say nothing by offering them Internet Explorer. Everything else was easy manipulation of the press. The media always was quick to kiss my butt."

While he waxed wistfully, I tried to figure a way out of this...

"Hey, Bill," I said in a fit of inspiration. "Did you read about Apple's new OS? It's guaranteed to never crash. All of the technology writers are saying they are so glad Microsoft finally went belly up. They felt you were extorting them for the last 10 years."

Bill twitches involuntarily. "You lying. Everyone I talk to misses the good old days of DOS and Windows 95. Why just yesterday..."

I interrupt him: "So you are still smoking crack, like Mac OS Rumors reported. Wake up, Bill. No one ever liked you. They only feared your big bankroll. You saw how fast everyone turned on you once the DOJ got that antitrust ruling to stick."

His twitch gets worse.

"Hey, Bill, you're not looking well. I can help you, but these handcuffs kinda get in the way. Reach in my front pocket and take that metal flask. You need it more than I do, brother."

As he reaches for my coat pocket, a gunshot rings out and he clutches his hand in pain. I look behind him and see Beth Locke with a two-handed grip on a Saturday Night Special.

"I knew you'd lead us to him, Sam," she says, motioning two Apple security agents to take Gates. "But we had to let him play out this little charade to lead us to this lair."

It turns out that after Apple bought out Microsoft, Gates went crazy, dedicating his life to destroying Apple. He'd always tried to destroy Apple before, hence the Xerox setup. But after the buyout, he'd gotten worse. Cross-dressing became a regular thing. Ditto for hacking into Apple's intranet. He figured that if he could feed advance company to competitors, they'd bring Apple down, or at least give them enough bad press to make them stumble and lose mind share.

Neither scheme worked as planned.

Since Apple had always been the underdog, the blatant public attacks only strengthened the company's popularity. That drove Gates further into insanity, which led to the recent attempt to impersonate Beth Locke.

But all's well that ends well.

Epilogue: January 2000...

Jobs gives his keynote address, right on schedule. As usual, he wows the crowd by announcing all kinds of new products and all kinds of new deals between his company and other high profilers. The rubes eat it up. As a result, the company's stock rises even higher. Jobs' followers are happy again, now that their leader's mojo is intact.

The media continues to reconstruct Apple's success story, trying to figure out how they do it - which is good. PC makers continue to deconstruct Apple's products, also trying to figure out how they do it - which is bad. Best of all, I made more of the big bucks; mission accomplished.

It ain't easy being a hard-boiled private eye.

But somebody's gotta do it.


- -

Note: The "Beth Locke" used in this story was in no way intentionally patterned about the famous web columnist Beth Lock - even though the resemblances are extraordinarily close :-)

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