Jumpstarting the Electric Chair

This is an excerpt from a story I wrote back in college- an idea I had for a novel that has yet to pan out. I chose the name JumpStart, primarily as a way to play on the title, long before I was aware of an actual company by that name. Obviously I’d have to make changes if I were to pursue this idea further. I was amused when I found this and wanted to share it.

Dropping the bag into the water, Roland thought the ordeal was finally over. His plans to dispose of the troublesome Carter Van Dellingham had gone off without a hitch. No one had seen Roland lurking in the dark thicket of Douglas firs behind Carter’s ranch house. He’d crept silently into the house through the sliding door of the screened-in porch. Carter had been alone on the leather sofa, watching the Eleven O’clock News, just as Roland had planned, and so no one had heard Carter’s gurgling screams as his throat was slit from ear to ear. Everything had worked out perfectly, or so Roland thought. As the black, zippered bag containing Carter’s corpse quietly slipped into the Willamette River, Roland was unaware of the rifle sight focused on his left temple…

Roland Tomlinson had been trying for months to get his business off the ground in Portland. His Software company, JumpStart, was a big success up Highway 5 in little Olympia, and he’d thought for sure it would be a hit in Oregon. Portland would be just the beginning. In just two months on the Exchange, JumpStart had tripled in value. People were anxious to try a network server that could not only run real time video and audio, for the most efficient, cross-country board meetings available, but could also run an entire manufacturing assembly line with just the push of a button. JumpStart provided World Wide Web access with a built-in email server, in addition to the manufacturing capabilities. No longer would you need to pay outrageous fees to access the Internet or send messages to your employees and customers. It could all be provided in one convenient package for a one time purchase price. Roland was revolutionizing business.

After JumpStart’s record breaking debut Roland’s chief network developer had taken a leave of absence to negotiate his late father’s estate. It turned out the developer’s late father was a very rich man with his estate valued at over $200 million. The developer was the sole heir. The developer’s name was Carter Van Dellingham and with his newly acquired inheritance, he’d returned to Olympia to inform Roland of plans to start his own software company using the same foundation as the JumpStart system. After all, Carter had been a co-designer of the project, the ideas were as much his as they were Roland’s, but he’d not been in a position to contribute substantially to the company’s initial capital investment. Now of course, Carter had plenty of financial power and intended to take his knowledge of the product in a different, solo, direction.

Roland Tomlinson looked younger than his forty-two years. His wavy brown hair was trimmed short and neat, with no visible graying, and his wire rimmed glasses gave him a classy, albeit dated appearance. He was a shrewd businessman, one who would sell his own house and live on the street if it mean black numbers in the profit column. Roland was motivated by money and little else. He loved the cool crispness of hundred dollar bills against his face and would stop at nothing to make more of them. After graduating with a degree in Computer Science from the University of Illinois, Champagne-Urbana, Roland had moved to California and completed his MBA at Stanford University. When he first came up with the idea behind JumpStart he did not know it would become the phenomenon it was today, but now that it had blossomed he was possessed by the goal of dominating cyberspace. With Van Dellingham’s aid he’d begun providing local business with the service in exchange for free advertising on those companies’ websites. Roland grew quickly into a superstar in the field of business networking.

Carter van Dellingham was the only person standing in Roland’s path to ultimately monopolizing the computer networks, or so Roland believed. Carter had chosen Portland as his headquarters only a week before Roland moved into the area and the competition was more than Roland could stand. Both men stood to make boatloads of money from their new network software, but Roland was a greedy man with unforged steel for a heart and he wanted the market share all to himself.Roland would be the biggest thing to hit the computing world since a certain fruitful company sold it’s first circuit board. Van Dellingham had threatened to take Roland’s gem of an idea and copy it, stealing away the profits Roland so deserved. Carter’s treachery would promote an onslaught of clones and mimics, flooding the market, making JumpStart just another product on the shelves. Roland would not let that happen.

Hiring a third party to eliminate Van Dellingham would be too risky. There would be too many trails pointing back to Roland. What if the hit-man couldn’t be trusted with the secret? What if they went to the authorities with Roland’s plan? It’s not like professional assassins were exactly upright citizens in the first place. No, he would have to do it himself, and it would have to be soon, before Carter took his version of the software public. This kind of “wet work,” as Roland had heard it called in the movies, was not beneath him. Had he not intentionally run down Sharon Carusoe’s Doberman with his Bentley when he discovered the animal soiling his lawn in the middle of the night?