Author: Jason Kays
Title: Virtual Vice
Paperback: 458 pgs
Genre: Creative nonfiction/new technology crime novel
In Virtual Vice by Jason Kays, readers follow disillusioned entertainment attorney Ian McKenzie as his professional life takes a decided turn for the questionable when he is hired by the charismatic and dangerous Scott White to represent Scott’s interests in his cutting edge Internet startup, Metropoleis Multimedia. Unfortunately for Ian, Scott has more in common with Scarface’s Tony Montana than Apple’s Steve Jobs, and things go from questionable to deadly in no time flat. As Scott’s confidant and consigliore, Ian soon finds himself caught between the Feds, La Cosa Nostra, and the Cali Cartel in a fatal game of corporate winner-take-all.
Everything old is new again
Drug trafficker turned entertainment and technology entrepreneur Scott White was having as much difficulty adapting to post-reformation Seattle as was Allis. Recreational drugs have always been integral to a musician’s food pyramid. White, one of the West Coast’s largest cocaine kingpins between the late-1970s and 1980s, profited handsomely from the well-balanced diet of Rock stars and hangers-on who populated the music scene during that hedonistic era.
The dark knights’ respective zeniths of infamy did not intersect during the 1970s: Scott was unloading kilos, while Allis was packing his bags for Texas. Over the years, however, each had become aware and respectful of the other’s legacy and sphere of influence. Scott’s return to Seattle had preceded Wes Allis’ by a few years. When the promoter learned through his network that the Candy Man was back in town, he sought him out to ensure that there would be a ready supply of party favors for the talent.
With the exception of heroin, drugs were no longer in vogue amongst the Seattle artiste set during the 1990s. White still had connections in that world, but had invested profits realized as drug trafficker into an Internet start-up, Metropoleis Multimedia Corp. (MIII). MIII’s focus was developing methods to stream high-resolution audio and video feeds from live music events.
The two career criminals rendezvoused at The Off Ramp, an iconic Seattle watering hole for young rockers, where they shared war stories and notes on the lay of the land. The common connection to organized crime families allowed them to speak to one another with a greater familiarity and trust than would normally have been extended. The product differed, but they shared the same banker and rules of engagement.
White passed a collection of pierced, inked twenty-somethings to reach the well-worn and nicotine-stained backroom of the dive bar. Allis sat alone at a corner bar table, his shoulder-length, silver-streaked hair tied back in a ponytail. Sporting a green-striped navy seersucker suit and boutonnière, Allis’ defiant Savile Row aesthetic drove a white hot poker right through the Grunge rockers’ earnest indifference. A good six inches taller than his guest, Allis stood to greet the diminutive drug dealer. Insecurity and ambition reflexively propelled White to stand on tiptoe to offset the difference in height.
His discomfiture further intensified by the promoter’s effete handshake, White checked for spilt beer on his bar stool before taking a seat at the rummy’s impromptu conference table.
With exaggerated animé grin, Wes Allis opened, “The city has changed, but some things, well, they stay the same, don’t they?” He gestured with his beer bottle towards the ante-room and the heroin-laced patrons, paused, shook his head, then smiled wistfully. The eeriness of his smile seemed to freeze time, as he subsequently directed the Candy Man’s eye to the double doors leading to the kitchen. Slumped just outside the kitchen doors was the ashen-faced, near-lifeless body of a strung-out addict. “Supply and demand, right, Mr. White? Supply and demand. I’ll ensure continued demand; you ensure delivery of the product.”
Where Allis’ smile was one of artifice and punctuation, the wellspring of joy in White’s heart for God’s gift of the addict prompted a heartfelt, Cheshire-cat beam of approval as he looked about him to witness laissez-faire economics at work.
After taking in the sights, the Candy Man was further moved when he pivoted back on his stool to face his host and found himself at pussy level with their leggy server. The Off Ramp prided itself on being a family affair: addicts serving addicts. This girl was either the exception or wore her drugs well. Absent was that sexy, anemic, necrophilic look sported by so many of her co-workers. She appeared to have a pulse. Petulant locked and loaded labia were straining for release against her taut denim hot pants; delicate rose-hued nipples were visible through a sheer top beneath the faded image of Karl Marx. All of this was served atop shapely, lithe ivory legs unblemished by track marks.
“You gonna drink or ya just here to collect a pap smear?” quipped the server.
Allis chuckled slyly, “Oh, that’s good! I’ll have to file that away. Betty Friedan and all that aside, you are engaged in a pretty aggressive marketing campaign there, toots!” The promoter played for time to give White an opportunity to produce a rejoinder. When none appeared to be forthcoming, he ordered up another warm beer for himself.
As for White, the reptilian part of his brain was still attempting to connect the quick-witted quip to the full, moist, burgundy red lips of this anomaly that stood before him. White’s reductive and narrow world view did not allow for the co-existence of sexy and cerebral at this level. His sense of manhood left flaccid, the Candy Man decided it was best to order his drink and pretend he had not heard the comment. “Whatever Porter you have on tap. Thanks.”
The server stared blankly at the misogynist, then replied, “Look, Daddy. We got Rainier for the regulars and Heineken for the poseurs and suits.” She shot Allis a disapproving look.
White ordered his Rainier, then declared to his drinking partner, “I’m out of the party-favor business, Wes. Elements of the CIA and DEA messed up the game by vying for a piece of the action, only to pull an end run after we schooled them in the business. The taxpayer is footing their fuel bill, so they can keep overhead to a minimum. Like any private venture where you involve the government, they mess it up. To add insult to injury, the feds arrested some of my crew five years ago and were getting too close to administration. My core group split up when we learned they were on to us. Today, margins are too narrow and the risk too high for this to be a viable venture. I got into the Information Technology sector, built a team, and came up with a way to efficiently stream video and audio capture of live concerts over broadband . . .”
“Good, good,” Allis interrupted. “We may be able to partner on that front too, but I need to know that I can count on you or that you can . . .”
“I still have my network out there. I can get whatever you need – it will just take a little longer, but . . .” He paused as the sexpot server returned with their beers. White was momentarily distracted by what he mistook for an infected piercing, only to realize she had a tiny green Smurfette charm dangling from her naval ring. The girl noticed the perplexed look and shook her head in disgust as she snorted derisively and sashayed to her next table, leaving White transfixed by her pneumatic hips and little-boy ass.
Scott White resumed his conversation. “So, you’re covered on that front. It’s done. Let me tell you a little about Metropoleis Multimedia. I have two former Microsoft software engineers on the payroll, as well as one of the sound engineers that equipped Paul Allen’s yachts – both of them – with onboard recording studios. These people are all top shelf. I have a Silicon Valley venture capitalist on the Board of Directors, as well an MBA with a background in securities. We’re slowly ramping up for an IPO. We need to road test the technology first and bring aboard a good PR person and advertising firm, but . . .” White paused as Allis held up his hand.
“You know my background in music,” Allis interjected. “I can help you with talent and marketing. The technology end of it isn’t my bag. My partner, Donald Morse – he’s the tech guy. He’s the person you want to talk to. He was lighting director for several of my arena shows and handled the smaller rooms as well. These venues, most have their own sound and light people, but if you’re doing something new, something different, it’s better to bring in your own people. I’m guessing the same is true in your world – better to have your own team. The psychedelic Trips Festivals I did at the Eagles Auditorium wouldn’t have worked without Don’s involvement. Plus, he’s a money guy. He can finance projects and has a few of his own in the works that might benefit from your services. I’ll set up a meeting.” Allis was a seasoned promoter, but a complete Luddite when it came to technology. He didn’t own a personal computer and had not comprehended a word of White’s pitch. This was his partner’s arena. The alien contactee, Donald Morse.
The two spent the next few hours reminiscing about Seattle in the 1970s and ’80s. The new Seattle: the Microsoft, nouveau riche Seattle was as alien to the two men as their server’s tribal tattoos and genitalia jewelry.
In the months to come, White would put Allis on contract with MIII, but the work was entirely commission-based. In short, it didn’t pay unless Allis produced. And Allis, despite his contacts and unflagging ambition, was having great difficulty producing. As the months evolved into years, Allis’ love-hate relationship with his business partner, Morse, became that much more strained as he suspected the latter of collaborating with White without keeping him fully apprised. He was convinced Donald Morse and Scott White were doing deals on the side that excluded him. And he was right. He would remain under contract with Metropoleis Multimedia, but needed to author his own project, needed his own advance men, his own team of “suits”. Allis’ days of free love and freewheeling business deals did not translate into the contemporary music industry business model: a model that was far more about “business” than music. That left the promoter back at square one in rebuilding his base in Seattle.
Jason M. Kays is an intellectual property attorney with fifteen years experience in both information technology and entertainment law. Kays is an accomplished jazz trumpet player and his passion has always been music, technology, and convergence of the two in today’s digital age. This is his first novel.