Yes, I suppose I am famous, now. My picture has been in Time, The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s, and a lot of other places, always with some comment about how I took Bearfinder, Inc., an obscure little company that made radar detectors, and made it the fastest growing electronics company in North America. What they don’t tell is how I did it. You might say I owe it all to my winning ways with beautiful women. Well, there’s more to it than that.

Just about everyone who wants one has a radar detector, and Bearfinder, Inc. hired me to come up with a new “after market” device, a new little box you can stick on the dash. We decided on a “popularly priced” GPS receiver. It picks up the Global Positioning System satellite signals and tells you where you are, to within about five feet. Of course, GPS tells you position in latitude and longitude, and most drivers couldn’t tell you what hemisphere you are in, but we integrated a little computer with the GPS receiver. When you are at Charlie’s bar, just type in the name. On the way home, when it’s time to turn right, type it in. When you are home, type in, “my driveway.” Thereafter, whenever you are someplace you have programmed in, it tells you so. If you are sober enough to read, you can drive home from Charlie’s at night, in a fog, with the streetlights out. Well, you might need our collision avoidance radar, too, but that’s another story.

Another growing market for the things, repackaged, is for monitoring criminals on parole or probation. They are required to wear one of our units, and it records every place they have been. To report in to their parole officer, all they do is dump the data into a modem, and a central computer checks to see if they have violated the terms of their parole, like consorting with former criminal associates, or if they were at the scene of a crime. Anyway, between the automobile market and the justice industry, we’re selling a whole lot.

Of course, winning 96 per cent of the market depended on getting the price way down, significantly less than it would cost our competition to make them. That meant a low-cost custom integrated circuit, and that meant a trip to Silicon Valley.

Guf Haas was the VP for Marketing for “Ess See Squared,” Santa Clara Specialty Circuits, a gallium arsenide house, in Sunnyvale. (They started down the block, in Santa Clara.) He was waiting for me when my flight got in, about noon, at the San Jose airport, and it had been hard sell all afternoon. I was resisting. I didn’t like his not being able to guarantee a -15 dB noise figure, and I didn’t like his wanting money up front for the masks and other nonrecurring costs. If it worked, we stood to buy half a million chips a year, at least, and if it didn’t work, that’s their fault.

So Guf was getting around to inviting me out to dinner, and I was saying that maybe I should just go to my motel. “I won’t hear of it,” he said. “You must be starving, with your stomach still on Eastern Time, and I know a great place.” I demurred. I said I didn’t need a real meal, just something light. Maybe I’d go for a long walk; I could use the exercise. I had been having trouble seeing my belt buckle. “Exercise, eh? I know just the thing. Light refreshments, wine and cheese, and the greatest of exercise. A party, one where you can get as little or as much action as you like.” Guf didn’t want to lose this order. “How about it? OK? Come on, as a favor to me. Your wife will never find out. This way, I can charge my fun to the company. Just let me make a couple phone calls. Mona!” Mona, his secretary, dutifully popped in with a fresh cup of coffee and entertained me for the ninety seconds it took Guf to set things up.

It’s a longish drive up the Bay to SF and over the bridge to Sausalito. Guf drove, with Liz in front. She was fortyish, with dark hair and big breasts. In real estate, she said. I sat in back with Fiona. Fiona could have been Liz’s daughter. She said she worked for an office equipment leasing firm. She was firm, lean, with a braid of hair she could almost sit on. No make-up, except for a smile and a tan. She was the sort of girl who would be tanned all over. Guf kept looking in the rearview mirror to see how Fiona and I were getting along.

“They have these parties every Monday night,” he explained. “They’re hot tub parties, clothing optional. You have to bring a date, but you are not expected to stay with her. Circulate, you know?” I said that if I didn’t know, I could learn. Fiona put her hand on my knee and flashed a smile.

We wound down to the water, parked, and started out along a rickety old wooden pier. Everywhere, six deep around the pier and anchored in the bay, there were houseboats, from surplus lifeboats roofed with tar paper to a ninety foot converted minesweeper. As we crossed some narrow planks, from boat to boat, Fiona clinging to my arm, Guf went on: “The host and hostess are Lex and Kathy. I’ve known them a long time. There’s refreshments; help yourself. As I said, it’s clothing optional, but if you take off all yours, I’ll throw in free air freight when we sign the contract.” Big deal.

The houseboat looked like a regular ranch house, but built on a barge. The living room was crowded, twenty or thirty people, and nothing much was going on, yet. My stomach was telling me it was way past dinner time, and I headed straight for the wine and cheese. I guess I overdid it with the wine.

Anyway, rationalizing that I might save my company some freight charges, I peeled down to nothing. It seemed the right thing to do. I was right about Fiona’s tan. Liz kept on a little push-up bra and a garter belt, which accentuated her lush, dark, curly hair. Guf stood there with it all hanging out.

He complained that the hot tub was broken. The heater had failed, and it was too cool out on deck to soak in cold water. “Couldn’t we put down a plastic sheet,” he suggested, “put lard or salad oil on it, and we could all roll around in it?” Kathy turned white at the thought of cleaning up after that. Liz said she wouldn’t do any such thing. No one else liked the idea, either. It seems Guf was the only one into oleaginous sex.

Kathy, diligent hostess that she was, came up with something to do. She rolled out a narrow, padded table and brought out a cart with half a dozen industrial-size jugs of lotion. She hopped onto the table and said, “Come on, Guf and friend, make me feel good.” Then she added, “The lotion should be warmed in the hands before applying it.” I was assigned the left leg, toes to navel, and Guf got the right leg. A guy and a girl got the top quarters. I started on the toes, massaging each one with meticulous care, thinking to maximize the time I had to figure out what to do when I got, as I knew I must, up by the hip. Kathy lay there with her head on a little plastic pillow, smiling and watching the four of us. She said I had a marvellous technique and was welcome at her parties any time.

“Hey, if we’re doing business together, you’ll have lots of occasions to visit our plant. We could go to a lot of parties,” said Guf. I just smiled. “I’ve got a contract right there in my coat pocket. We could just fill in some numbers and sign it.” I smiled and said I figured I ought to talk to Avantek and Varian before I committed my company to several years of production. Ultimately, I got to the navel, and it was time to let somebody else give Kathy a rub.

Fiona was out of sight, in one of the bedrooms, I guess, with someone younger and sturdier than I. Lex handed me a fresh glass of wine, and I found a place to sit (not easy) on a couch next to a bearded fellow who looked like Santa Claus, except that he was wearing a loose, striped robe, like a night shirt. An Iraqi, Lex said, not fluent in English, but a certified sex fiend.

Across from the Iraqi sat a beautiful blonde — she might have been a model or an airline cabin attendant — who looked a bit shy; she was still wearing a silky pink teddy. She looked great in it. I couldn’t keep my eyes off her, and she noticed. She took out a little pouch and papers and rolled one of those funny cigarettes. “Want one?” she asked, “It’s special stuff.” “Oh, no thanks, maybe later.” As she smoked, I couldn’t help breathing some of her smoke. It didn’t smell like any grass I’d ever smoked.

Suddenly, I found myself grabbing the Iraqi, kissing him full on the mouth. He grabbed me and kissed back. God, I thought, fighting free, I’m not gay. What came over me? I struggled to my feet and almost ended up in the blonde’s lap. She smiled and blew smoke in my face. Instantly, I was really turned on, sexually, and it was really embarrassing, standing there a foot from her face, standing tall. She just sat there, fingering the lace along the leghole of her teddy, looking like a centerfold or a movie star, and staring at my genitals. This is insane, I thought. I wasn’t myself.

Now, I haven’t read science fiction all these years without learning something. Something strange was going on, and the cause of it wasn’t anything I learned about in engineering school, or business school, either. Something spooky! Do-do-do- do…do-do-do-do, Twilight Zone! The blonde put her fist between her thighs, and I felt the strangest sensations. It felt as if my guts were churning, as if someone was pushing on my belly button, and everything between it and my prostate wanted to sizzle. As she rubbed herself, I feared I would explode in her face.

I sprinted for the bathroom and got a hold of myself. Then I took a cold shower. When I went back to the blonde, still dripping wet, but no longer tumescent, I felt I could control myself.

“You’re funny,” she said, “Square, nerdy, up-tight, aren’t you?” “Yes, Ma’am,” I replied, “and you are a witch. You’ve been playing games with my mind.” She blew a puff of smoke at me, and I had a terrible urge to giggle. I tried to control myself by concentrating on other things, like the taut, damp crotch of her teddy, and her perky breasts, tenting the silky fabric, her perfect teeth, exposed in a playful grin. “It’s your cigarette, isn’t it,” I said. “Can I have one now? Does it work for everyone?” “Yes,” she said, handing me the pouch, “and no. It works better for some people than for others. Only a few people have a real talent.” I rolled a joint, not forgetting the skills of my college days, and I drew deeply, exhaling in her face. I concentrated on her breasts, and she reached out and rubbed my chest. I tried to imagine that the back of my knee was itching madly. She slid a hand down her thigh and, probably not realizing she was doing it, began to scratch the back of her knee. I handed her the pouch. “We could make beautiful music together,” I said, and immediately felt revulsion.

“No,” she said, “not in this condition. It would be like masturbation.” “You’re right. Besides, I really turn you off, remind you of your father.” No.

“You can’t lie to me when I can read your mind.” Yes.

“You like the Iraqi.” I thought I might. I was feeling, at that instant, as if I had thought I might. This is dangerous.

“This is dangerous,” I said.

“Just what I was thinking,” she said.

“Well, thanks. Bye.” I felt a twinge of remorse, contrition, hers. I got as far from her as I could.

I still had the cigarette. I took a toke and experimentally breathed some smoke at a sweet young thing who was nibbling on a carrot. I had a strong sensation of being in bed with a young stud whom I recognized from across the room. I was performing an “unnatural act.” When I backed away, the thought faded. Of course, the signal should fade with distance. I got close again, blew smoke, and concentrated on the memory of what she had been thinking, except that I visualized the face I see in my shaving mirror, in place of the young stud’s.

The sweet young thing looked confused for a moment, then turned toward me, her lips open expectantly, and placed her hand where my fly would have been. I tried hard to stay in the “transmit” mode, and, as she bent down toward me, her tongue thrashing in anticipation, I imagined myself in my dentist’s office, with the drill whining. Instantly, the sweet young thing made a face, let go, and turned away. Hot damn! It worked. I had the talent.

Power is a terrible thing, addictive, so easy to abuse. How could Lamont Cranston, The Shadow, with the power to cloud men’s minds, have handled it? I knew I must. I knew I mustn’t waste my new-found power, merely seducing beautiful women. It takes a wise man, with a strong will, to make good use of a new discovery.

Cupping the cigarette in my hand, I stepped out on the cold deck and, as they say, gathered my wits. The cold air off the water gave me gooseflesh, and I imagined two women suddenly shivering. No, I knew they must be out of range.

Carefully, I worked out my strategy, then my tactics. In my mind, I rehearsed what I would do. I imagined myself going to Guf’s coat, which I could see hanging near the door. “Tell you what,” I imagined to myself, “I think your GPS gizmo is going to be a hit. It’ll put SCSC on the map, so I’m going to give you a special price on those chips, and no up-front money is necessary. This deal is going to earn me a seat on the Board of Directors.” I imagined reaching into the coat pocket, taking out the contract and a pen, and handing them to a naked man with my face. “Go ahead, fill in your own terms, and I’ll sign it.” I rehearsed the whole thing in my mind, over and over.

Chilled through, I went back into the crowded living room, got the cigarette lit again, and made my way to where Guf was standing, his hand on Liz’s ass. I took a long drag on the funny cigarette and blew the smoke in Guf’s face.

For long seconds, Guf just stood there, while I desperately tried to keep my mind on my planned transmission. I could see he was confused. I blew some more smoke, tried harder to imagine his handing me the contract.

With a soft slap on her rump, Guf sent Liz away and reached for his coat. “I think your GPS gizmo is going to be a hit,” he said.

I’ve been visiting Silicon Valley a lot, lately, going to a lot of parties, smoking a lot of funny cigarettes with my friends from SCSC. Last week, the directors of Santa Clara Specialty Circuits agreed to sell us the whole company, at a very attractive price.

– The End –