The March 29th release of my book, kongo.com is tomorrow! It’s a bit different than your typical novel or short story collection. It is comprised of four related novellas that each tell a distinct story about a behemoth corporation, kongo.com.
It’s no secret that online organizations are part of our everyday life. The company portrayed in this book takes what we know today to the next level.
It takes place in a not to distant, potential future. The stories in this book are all based on the possible evolution of existing technology – nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and our obsession with our devices.
Leading up to the release, I’m going to tell you a bit about each novella. Three of the four were previously published on my blog as serials. these three have been enhanced and modified. The fourth story is brand new and is meant to tie the previous three stories together.
The third story in the book is called First Impressions.This story explores the combination of a large retail services company and a dating/matchmaking site. When you think about it, online companies know a lot about us. Who better to take that information and help match customers with other customers looking for a relationship. What could possibly go wrong? In the world of kongo.com, whatever can go wrong, probably will. First Impressions take the reader down that path all with a surprise guest from my Frank Rozzani detective novels.
You can enjoy the first part of First Impressions below:
Meredith was finally getting her life back together. It had been 18 months since the divorce became final. At 33, she had finally come around to realizing that she was still relatively young and attractive. She had removed herself from an abusive relationship and was moving on. In the immediate months after the divorce, she couldn’t imagine looking for another relationship. She had sworn off men and was determined to go it alone and revel in her newly found freedom.
Then, as she
observed those around her, she would notice the second glance from men in the
coffee shop, the lingering smile from other in the grocery store. She felt
that, possibly, she was ready to put herself out there and could potentially
enjoy the company of the opposite sex once again. Being a very analytical
person that was comfortable with technology, Meredith decided to check out the
latest dating apps. She wanted something that was between the virtual meat
markets like Tinder and other similar apps and the marriage-minded services
like eHarmony. She wanted to date, but she didn’t want one-night-stands and she
wasn’t ready for a long-term commitment.
of what was out there brought her to Kongo-Match. This relatively new online
service offered by the online behemoth, kongo.com, seemed to fit the bill. The
service was known for carefully screening the backgrounds of those that signed
up and had a very good track record of matching people with not only similar,
but complementary interests. The parent company, kongo.com, had close to a
billion members. Meredith was among them. She subscribed to the kongo.com VIP
service which guaranteed her free delivery, often the same or next day, and put
her in line for being among the first to have access to newly emerging services
from the company.
registration process for Kongo-Match was extensive. It was almost like filling
out a job application. There were several sections that probed an applicant’s
education, work history, finances and personal interests. The process took
Meredith through several screens asking her about her favorite books, favorite
genres of television and movies, favorite music, favorite hobbies and many
other facets of her life. Kongo used the response to match applicants up with
others in similar social strata with similar likes and dislikes. Of course,
because the membership was free, Meredith assumed that Kongo would use her
responses to customize her online shopping view to those things for which she
indicated a preference. She was fine with that. She understood how companies
used information like this. It was up to the consumer to exercise self-control.
completed her application, she expected to receive notifications for matches
with all manner of riff-raff, but, surprisingly, there were no responses within
the first two days. She thought that maybe she was too unique or too difficult
to match with anyone. The thought depressed her. Kongo-Match had over 20
million members. More than 50% were male. If none of them came up as a match,
maybe, Meredith thought, she faced a life of being alone and unmatchable. Then,
on the third day, she received a single notification in her inbox. She
reluctantly clicked it half expecting a message from Kongo-Match telling her
that she was a loser and had no potential matches. What she found surprised
We are pleased to let you know that Kongo-Match has found
what we believe to be a perfect date for you based on your preferences. We
apologize for the delay in providing you with the information, but we take this
mission of bringing people together very seriously. When you read the
information about your potential match, we believe you will agree that the wait
was worth it.
Please review the profile for John. If you like what you
see and want to provide your information to him, just let us know and we will
help you get acquainted.
surprised at the level of security, but also pleased. As she scrolled through John’s
information, she noted how very close they were in background, education and
preferences. John also was at a similar economic level. One thing that was not
included was a photograph. She assumed one would be shared later.
looked over John’s background information a few times looking for areas of
concern or some chink in the armor, but she found none. Finally, with only the
slightest hesitation, she clicked the ‘Yes’ radio button indicating that she
wanted Kongo-Match to share her information with him.
She settled in
to watch a movie on Kongo’s streaming service when, after only 30 minutes, a
notification popped up on her phone.
Kongo-Match has a response waiting for you
paused the movie and clicked on the Kongo-Match icon and went to her inbox.
Good news. John has reviewed your profile and has indicated
that he is interested in sharing a photograph and contact information with you.
Please click the link below to receive this information.
Please Note: Kongo Match will not share your photo or
contact information with John unless you indicate that it is okay.
clicked on the link. The man she saw was good looking, about her age. He had
thick brown hair with a slight curl to it. He had a strong jawline and a kind
face. The most notable feature that he possessed was a set of piercing,
intelligent hazel eyes. He looked like someone she wanted to meet.
clicked the ‘Yes’ radio button indicating that she liked what she saw. Again,
she only hesitated slightly before clicking ‘OK’ when the next message
Meredith: You have indicated that you would like to move to
the next step in contacting John. By clicking OK, you are agreeing to provide
John with your photograph and a brief message of introduction. John will also
receive your Kongo-Match email address. Are you sure you would like to proceed?
hovered her cursor over the OK button and then clicked it. A box popped up so
that she could enter an introductory greeting of 144 characters or less. She
thought about what to say and then typed in her message:
Kongo’s technology thinks we are compatible. Let’s see if
the technology right or wrong. Let’s get in touch. I’m new at this, so be
She thought it
sounded corny, but, what the heck. She clicked send and didn’t give it another
thought as she engrossed herself in the movie.
As the closing
credits rolled by, another notification from Kongo-Match popped up on her phone
display. She checked the inbox and it was a message from John.
Meredith, aside from mix-ups for orders I receive, Kongo’s
technology seems very advanced and accurate. Who am I to argue? Let’s give it a
the humor in his response. It’s hard to convey aspects of your personality in a
message with complete sentences in 144 characters. Maybe this was going to be
In the coming
weeks, with help from Kongo-Match, Meredith and John engaged in a virtual chess
match as they corresponded with each other. Each of them had been burned in
past relationships and were being cautious with the information they shared.
The end result was that neither of them seemed to be psychopathic or dishonest.
They finally set a time to meet for dinner. Meredith would meet John at a local
Tuscan-Italian restaurant for an early dinner on the next Friday night.
arrived, Meredith carefully chose an outfit that was somewhere between
librarian and hooker. She wanted to look attractive, but not desperate. She
chose a silk blouse and tailored capris. As she looked in the mirror, she
thought she looked attractive and relaxed. It was just dinner. No commitments
and no pressure.
She arrived at
the restaurant about five minutes after the time they said they would meet. The
hostess indicated that her dining partner was already seated. And led Meredith
to a table in the back of the dining room. She recognized John from his photo immediately.
He rose from his seat to greet her with a handshake and held her chair as she
sat. Manners. That was a good sign.
“It’s so great
to meet you in person,” John said. “I feel like I know you from our chats back
“I feel that
Just as the
conversation was about to lapse into that uncomfortable stage, a waiter
“Can I take
your drink orders?”
“I’d like a
glass of white Zinfandel,” Meredith said wondering if alcohol was the right
let’s make that a bottle,” John said, confirming the choice.
settled in to dinner and sipping the wine, the conversation came much more
easily. John listened attentively as Meredith talked about her work and her
likes and dislikes. She did the same as he spoke about his job as a financial
analyst and his love of jazz music. They both fumbled over their most recent
failed relationships. As it turned out, both had been the victims of cheating
spouses. This seemed to bring them closer together as they discussed the hurt
they had experienced.
As John spoke,
Meredith was drawn continually to his eyes. They were intelligent and sincere.
There was no way this man she was speaking to could get away with not telling
the truth. His eyes were transparent windows into his psyche.
As they spoke
through the main course and a shared dessert, their hands moved closer together
on the table. When they finally touched, Meredith found herself holding hands
with this man she just met. The electricity was undeniable. She saw, from his
eyes, that he felt it too. She felt a stirring in parts of her body that had
been dormant since the divorce. She promised herself that this date would just
be dinner, but that promise appeared to be in serious jeopardy. Of course, she
began to rationalize, even though this was the first in-person date, she and
John had been communicating for weeks. It wasn’t as if this was a blind date.
As they walked
out of the restaurant toward her car, she could tell John was conflicted
between being a gentleman and acting upon what he felt. She made it easier for
him by embracing him and giving him a kiss that communicated the hunger she
felt. Before she knew it, John was in her car and she was driving toward her
apartment. The walls she had erected were crumbling.
John to her bedroom. She hurriedly put her keys and phone on the nightstand,
and they began their night of passion. Meredith had forgotten how good she
could feel in the arms of a man. Even though it had only been a short time
since the divorce, the time from when she had been intimate with a man was much
longer. The marriage had ended long before the divorce.
afterglow, she lay in John’s arms feeling safe and happier than she had been in
a while. As she looked at his face, she saw that he felt the same. They slept
briefly, but John awoke to use the restroom and Meredith put on some clothes
while he was gone.
He came back
from the bathroom wearing his boxers and shirt.
“I feel awful
about this,” he said. “I have an important meeting tomorrow and I need to get
back to my car.”
understand,” Meredith said with sincerity.
don’t want you to think this was a one-night thing. I didn’t expect…I knew I
had this meeting and I thought it would just be dinner…I mean.”
“No need to
explain,” Meredith said. “I thought the same thing. I will bring you back to
your car. You focus on your meeting and we’ll talk about where this goes next.
I enjoyed the evening very much.”
“I did too.
Listen, I’ll get an Uber. There’s no reason for you to go out again.”
“Okay. It’s no
“I’m fine with
an Uber. I’d feel better if you’re not out driving alone at this time of
appreciated the chivalry of this man. His Uber came within ten minutes and she
thought about all the wonderful things she felt as she drifted off to sleep.
She slept dreamlessly until her alarm cruelly work her up. As she looked at the
clock on her nightstand, she realized that it was only 6 AM. Her alarm was set
for 6:45. It was her phone that was ringing. The number belonged to her
coworker and office mate Marian.
Meredith said groggily.
sorry to bother you, but I figured, well…you better look at your email from
“Why? What is
“Just look at
it. It’s better if you see if first.”
her phone away from her ear and switched to her email app. She saw nothing out
of the ordinary except for an email from Kongo-Match that went to her work
email address. That was strange. She never provided this address when filling
out her profile. She clicked on the message:
It looks like someone from your company has been enjoying
their companion that they found through Kongo-Match.
There was a
link to what turned out to be a video.
It was dimly
lit at first, but then she realized, in horror, what she was looking at. The
perspective was from the nightstand in her room. The dimly lit figures in the
video were naked and they were passionately engaged on her bed. She then
realized that it was her own body underneath that of John. It was a video of
their night together. She quickly closed the video and, in the CC: field of the
email, she saw that everyone in her company, over 150 people, had received the
email with the video link. She put the phone back to her ear.
“I don’t know
where this came from, Marian and I certainly don’t know how it was sent to
everyone. I didn’t intentionally record this video.”
thought I better warn you. Otherwise it would have been uncomfortable coming
into work and getting blindsided.”
finished her thought, another call came in. It was John. She reluctantly told
Marian she’d call her back and answered the call.
“John, what is
have a serious problem.”