Editor’s Note. When the Supreme Court once again anoints an unelected Republican president and Commander In Chief of US Armed Forces, and news headlines start blaring about investigations into massive election fraud, in between sorties, you can tell your friends and familia you know how this happened. Here are the facts behind the news that, were it not for La Bloga, probably would never emerge. Had the following as-yet undisclosed events not occurred, my prediction for today’s election undoubtedly would have come to pass: Obama 52% popular vote and 364 Electoral votes, McCain 44% pv, 174 EVs. (270 EVs needed to win.)
“Hey, Conchita,” shouts Sam from the sunny La Jolla patio, “bring me another mentirita!”
“¡Conchita! Por favor, traigame otra mentirita.”
The ocean breeze flaps the pennants, seabirds call one another, wind chimes echo against the sliding glass doors. “¡¿¡Conchita!?!”
“I gave Conchita the day off, Sam.”
“Oh? Well, then, in that case, I’ll have me some papaya, Marta, right here on the chaise lounge. And another mentirita.”
“Cochino! I’m on the phone with Mamá.”
Her mother. Sam Sepulveda stifles the rude remark that comes to his lips. He doesn’t want to start pedo over Martita’s incessant phone calls with her witch of a mother, not after this so far ever-so-blissful month high in the hills overlooking the red tile roofs and sparkling jewel of the La Jolla cove.
Getting Marta to La Jolla had come as a total surprise—her idea in fact. Just goes to show that money really can buy happiness. Especially up here, far from prying eyes and controlling mothers. “Let them investigate, I’m so totally safe.” Sam thinks back two months to October, when he was deeply in debt and desperate to get into Marta’s calzones. Then came his big score for those pendejos working for McCain. Just like that, and he snaps his fingers at the memory, everything comes together out of the blue. And that woman has done the perp walk on the morning news. “What, me worry?” Sam tells himself. “She’s where she belongs and her two henchassholes are probably on the lam back to Miami, or wherever they came from.”
“No, no, Mamá,” Marta is saying, “no te apures, todo va bien. Hoy mismito.”
Damn straights todo va bien. Now. No thanks to that old harridan. Sam feels anew the frustration of phone calls with Marta’s mom and the last one that plays over and over again in his head.
“Bueno?” The gravelly voice of Marta’s mother. Again.
“Ah, buenas tardes, Señora. Habla Sam Sepulveda. ¿Está Marta?”
“Ahorita no’sta a casa, Sr. Sam.” Sam remembers that note of disdain in the disagreeable woman’s voice when she says his name, like she’s eaten shit. Impulsive Sam. Thinking to keep her on the line long enough that Marta, hot Marta, will overhear and take the call this monolingual scold is intercepting yet again, he composes a cryptic message in Spanish that only Marta will understand, but he can’t resist the little insult. “Okeh. Muy agradecido. ¿Me haces el gran refavron cabor de tomar un mensaje?”
“Fock you, asswhole,” Sam Sepulveda mutters in his Terminator accent. “Why don’t you speak English?” Sam momentarily channels his irritation onto the keyboard of his computer, pounding hard at the keys. He takes a breath, holds it, releases. “Ommm,” he chants, adding “There’s no way, wey, Marta is not coming with me to McCain’s victory party Tuesday, no matter what her mother says.” He explores his groin, sighing, “Ay, Martita, mmmm, Martita.”
Calmed, Sam Sepulveda’s fingers become brown blurs as he strokes the keyboard, speaking the command lines aloud as a way of proofreading on the fly. “If choice equals Obama,” his fingers stroke the identical keys, “count vote for McCain. If choice equals McCain, print to screeen…” Sam’s fingers pause, his eyes seeing the extra character his lips had not pronounced nor his ears recorded. “Shit.” Sam backspaces and retypes, hitting each letter and spelling phonetically to ensure accuracy, “Sierra Charlie Romeo Echo Echo November. Screen,” he reads with satisfaction and relief. “Return.” He presses the Enter/Return key and watches the progress bar save his work.
A single error in this program would bring those hard boys to the door. They would track Sam to the ends of the earth to make him pay. That woman had been straightforward about that. But the deal too sweet to turn down, despite her menace. And now she was FBI property. “What a laugh,” Sam chuckles enjoying his relief from the tension that has filled his every minute between accepting the job, receiving his final payout, and today.
The letter with the meeting place--TGIF on the wharf in Frisco--had arrived with an airline ticket voucher and a fifty-dollar bill. “For cab fare” the Post-It note says in fancy calligraphy. Sam takes the bus and pockets the difference. Not that he would need it, an hour later. Sam had followed the hostess, a hot little number with frizzy red hair and tight black stretch pants, to a table in back where two men and a woman sat laughing at something the woman said, but from the distance, Sam couldn’t make out the joke. Only the woman was looking in Sam’s direction.
She was unattractive. Blonde. Heavy. Dowdy. Dandruff flecks on the shoulders of her brown hound’s-tooth pantsuit. A frilly lime green blouse buttoned to the top. The man on the right looked like a bodybuilder. MIB suit with an open-necked muscle shirt. A gold cornudo on a heavy chain around his neck. One spit-shined shoe catches the light as it pushes a chair out for Sam to sit. Sam draws a momentary blank on the twin-flag lapel pin. The sparkly stars and stripes, of course, but the blue-stripes with the red triangle jack bearing a single white star? The smallish man in the middle chair wears a pink guayabera and a white Panama hat with a purple hat band, reminding Sam of Dodie Stevens’ oldie. Maybe it’s the way the two men grow stone-faced when they notice his approach that Sam decides not to smile.
“Sam!” the woman stage whispers with mock surprise, as if she’s known him for a long time and this were not their first meeting. She, too, wears that twin-flag pin, Cuba? “Sit down, Sam, toma asiento, Sam.” She snags the hostess’ wrist to hold the surprised teenager in place. “Bring my friend una mentirita, mi’ja, OK?” Sam remembered his fleeting sense of triumph; he’d guessed correctly. Cuba.
“I’ll send your waitress right over, Ma’am,” demurs the hostess, unable to free her wrist. Her name badge reads “Consuelo” and Sam thinks to himself she could console him anytime she wants.
“I told you what I want. Mi’ja.” The woman’s voice oozes menace. “So. Do. It. And don’t send a waitress. You.”
The hostess’ eyes glisten with tears and she stammers, “but…but…I don’t know what a ‘mentirita’ is…please…”
Sam Sabelotodo to the rescue. Snaking his arm around the hostesses’ waist and drawing her toward him, out of pantsuit’s grasp, he explains. “It’s a Cuba Libre, rum and coke with lime, honey, but since Cuba’s not free, it’s called a little lie, una mentirita. Consuelo, bring me two of ‘em.” The hostess smiles in gratitude, whirls like a dancer out of Sam’s grasp and her nalgas flex their way up the platform steps to the bar.
“Sam,” pantsuit purrs, “you ladies man. You spoiled my fun. But that’s OK. Let’s talk business.” She speaks rapid staccato Spanish, not pausing even when Consuelo sets down the drinks. Sam concentrates, translating mentally into English. This was the sweet deal Sam had dreamed about. Astonishing in its audacity but, if it all comes together, the perfect cyber crime. Really gigantic, make a ton of money, walk away untouched. “So, that’s the deal, Part A,” explains pantsuit, reverting to her accentless English. “You get one hundred fifty thousand dollars today. Finish the job on schedule. Raúl and Fidel here hand deliver another hundred fifty thousand dollars cold hard cash to your door ten minutes after I receive your email that you’re done. After the election, when McCain wins, the muchachos deliver two hundred thousand more. And you, you take a long vacation and forget all about us and we forget all about you. Half a million dollars. Puro cash, no complications. Questions?”
“The backdoors are all verified?” Sam impresses himself with his equanimity despite the thump of his heartbeat even now as he recalls the woman’s stony smile during the next phase of their deal, which he thinks of as The Ordeal.
“Sam,” pantsuit leans forward to reach her hand out to his knee, “that’s a good question.” She palms his lower thigh. “The answer is yes.” She caresses him gently, looks into his eyes, and whispers, “And Sam, there’s a side benefit.” She strokes a little higher, one finger rubbing small circles high up his leg. “Do you want to know what that is, Part B?”
Sam swallows, allured and repulsed at the same time. He nods. “Sam, if you fail, or if you ever tell anyone about your role in switching Obama’s votes to John McCain, Raúl and Fidel here will hand deliver you into a world of pain like you’ve never imagined.” The pink guayabera smiles affably. MIB nods. “If you run, they’ll find you. And when they do, you will wish you’d never been born. Is this something you understand, Sam?” Sam sits bolt upright, her nails like needles press through his trousers. Sam wonders if she is drawing blood.
“Sam Sepulveda’s the name, flawless code is my game.” His reflexive reply startles the woman because her eyes open wide and her fingers clench harder. Sam thinks he sounds authentically nonchalant, struggling not to squirm in his chair.
“Yeah, right,” pantsuit spits back with a squint, sinking uñas deeper into Sam’s thigh. “Listen, vato,” fingertips pinching flesh closer to his crotch, “this is serious shit and I don’t want no smart-assed overconfidence. Part B won’t be fun. For you.” MIB smiles. “So let’s be clear on our understanding. Give me the straight talk express version, and in plain English.”
Sam fixes pantsuit in the eyes. “I get it. I am being paid five hundred thousand dollars cash to create a virus that ensures John McCain wins the election by getting 54.9% of the votes in ten states with the highest Electoral College votes. On November 3 at 23:58:00 hours em punto I will email the program to the elections tally computers of these states. The program will execute during the counting runs and self-delete if anyone tries to List the code. It won’t matter if Obama wins the popular vote in the other 40 states because McCain is assured of winning the Electoral College when my program takes over the tally machines of the top ten electoral vote states.”
“And my guarantees?” She places her fondling hand on the table but Sam’s leg still tingles.
“I guarantee I will tell no one about this.”
“Y que más?” She lifts a grease-stained TGIF takeout bag from under the table and places it in the middle.
“I guarantee my program will work exactly as you’ve specified, provided your backdoors to the tallying computers let my code inside. I guarantee my work will be totally undetectable, provided your source code is the most current. With these caveats, I guarantee you completely successful results…” Sam can’t resist adding, “…ésa,” just to see pantsuit’s reaction.
She smiles and lifts her eyebrows. Leaning forward, she takes Sam’s face in her hands and whispers, “Lookit, pendejo,” I may look Hispanic to you, but I ain’t no ‘ésa.’ Soy patriota, pura Americana. And if you use that barrio shit with me, I’ll let my prescriptive grammarian friends Raúl and Fidel here give you free a lesson on diction and syntax. M’entiendes mendes?” Pantsuit points to the TGIF take-out bag. “Now take your money and get out of my sight.”
“Anything you say…ésa.” Sam winks, takes the greasy sack and starts whistling the oldie about tan shoes and pink shoelaces.
“Hey, menso,” pink guayabera speaks. “Piso bajo, space 104.” He tosses an Avis key ring and a parking stub on the table. “You don’t make it past Homeland Security with that montón of cash, will you?”
That was back in October, a month before the election. Deadline election eve. Tonight. Sam didn’t push the rental Prius past the speed limit most of the way south. As he neared the Hollywood Way off ramp, a shiver of fear fills him when the car phone buzzes. Sam presses the off hook button with his right thumb. The woman from TGIF coos. “Sam, get right to work, OK? Don’t stop until you’ve finished. Raúl and Fidel have laid out breakfast for you and put food in the fridge. And remember Part B, OK, mi amor?”
Sam did as she instructed, except to rent the hillside villa overlooking the cove at La Jolla. Once into his programming routine, he stopped wondering where pink guayabera and MIB lurked, and relaxed. “Ay, Marta Marta Marta,” he recited when he took work breaks, “just wait ‘til the McCain victory party.”
Six hours to deadline and Sam finishes. He frets until 11:57, when he prepares to execute Part A. “Go ahead, say it, buey,” Sam laughs as his fingers come off the keyboard. “Open Apple Vee. Return.” His fingers paste the addresses into the Mail program. The beachball icon spins for several minutes as the program makes its way from Sam’s hard drive up through the invisible pipeline of the world wide web and into the hidden backdoors of the vote counting computers in the target states. “Bye bye, hope, hello baked Alaska.”
The Mac gives a “whoosh” sound indicating his second email is on its way, to that woman. “Little Marta will be so disappointed,” Sam smiles, taking his iPhone from his shirt pocket. “Such a hot Obama mamasota.” Sam laughs loudly. “Martita, tonight, I’ll pour McCain’s champagne down that lovely little throat of yours until you’re so drunk with disappointment you won’t be able to walk straight. Then it’s straight upstairs to my suite for a sweet time for me. No wonder your mother hates me. So she should.”
To Sam’s immense delight, before he can speed dial Marta his iPhone sounds the opening notes to Woolly Bully—his ringtone for Marta. With dizzying speed, Marta tells Sam about the fight she’s had with her mother, about how sorry Marta is that Sam’s calls have been censored. Marta suggests she come spend the night as a way to make it up to him and they can leave for the party from his apartment. Sam is stunned when a Marta he doesn’t know--imaginative, aggressive, athletic Marta-- emerges from her demure comportment. Sam can’t stop himself from showing her his cash, describing how, when today ends, he—they—will be half a million dollars rich. In cash. The payoff for a few week’s work.
Fox News calls the election for McCain at 5:15 Pacific time. Even without California’s 55 electoral votes, McCain is over the top. Long lines at West Coast polling places evaporate as discouraged Obama supporters trudge home or to bars in stunned silence. Marta has not been disappointed at all. The Obama button, she confesses, has been a ruse. All her Chicana and Chicano friends were dyed-in-the-wool liberals who referred to Cubanos as “gusanos,” as if these Mexicans had any idea what happened when her grandfather had fled to Miami just ahead of Castro’s goons. As the Hispanics for McCain celebrants shout “Viva! Viva!” pink guayabera emerges out of the confetti to hand Sam a heavy briefcase and, without a word, disappears into the boisterous crowd. Sam and Marta celebrate all night and sleep in the limo that chauffeurs them to their luxurious hilltop hide-away.
“Orale, Marta! Where’s that drink? And some papaya?” Sam calls with mock impatience.
“Ay, Sam,” Marta laughs back, launching Sam’s favorite game. “Knock knock!”
“Knockers knockers?” Sam mocks. Sam knows the joke ends with Marta’s grand entrance dressed in some elegant little nothing picked up at Victoria’s Secret. “Man, this is the best month of my life,” Sam thinks. “And her mother thought she could stop me from hooking up with her precious little daughter. I wish she could see us now!”
“Come on cochino, play right! I have a special surprise for you today, OK? Knock knock!”
Sam smiles in anticipation when he hears the glass door slide open, the curtain rings draw along the rod, a furtive footfall on the cement behind him.
“Señor Sam,” the gravelly voice says, "I think you remember Marta’s primos, Raúl y Fidel?”