50

“Thanks so much for agreeing to help me, Cindy,” Madison said as the two girls walked into Cindy’s room.

“Glad to help!” Cindy replied. “Want some tea? I’m going to make myself some tea.” She flitted across the room and turned on her kettle. “You can pull the makeup chair over to the desk if you want.

Madison set up the chair next to Cindy’s throne. She had thought it was an office chair, but now she realized it had big speakers built into it. “What’s the deal with this chair?”

“Oh,” Cindy replied. “It’s a gaming chair. It’s designed to let you sit for like 18 hours a day, like if you were doing a tournament or something. It has a subwoofer built into it, so you can really feel the explosions. Wanna try it? I could spin something up.”

“No thanks. It’s a pretty cool chair, though.”

Cindy handed her a mug of pumpkin spice tea. “I like it. Streamer girls usually go for the white or pink ones, but my brand is a little more goth. I like the dark leather.” She settled into the chair and logged in to her computer. “So what are we looking for today?”

“I want to know who owns the warehouse on the edge of town. Bryce and I found Mr. Black’s house using the registry web site, but I couldn’t find the warehouse there. I was hoping you could figure it out. It’s probably just me being dumb,” she said.

“Let’s see…” Cindy said. Madison watched as she found the registry site and looked at the instructions. “I think the problem is probably that you don’t know the exact address. What was Mr. Black’s address?”

Madison searched through her notebook. “619 Lakeside.”

“Okay, I got it. That belongs to CLP Holdings. Let’s see… Okay, yeah. I think I’ve got the warehouse.”

“How’d you do that?” Madison asked.

“I figured maybe it was owned by the same company, so I searched by owner instead of address.” Cindy put the address into a map site. “Yeah, that’s the place. Holy shit. I didn’t realize it was so big.”

“Oh, yeah, it’s freaking huge,” Madison said.

Cindy had already switched to a different site and was re-entering the address.

“What’s this?” Madison asked.

“That building is like five acres,” Cindy replied. “This is a site that lets you measure stuff from a satellite image.”

“Gotcha. Yeah, that sounds right. Hey, do you suppose we could look for that company in other places? Like…” Madison flipped through her notebook, “Houston?”

“Probably,” Cindy said. “Houston is in… Harris County… registry… oh geez, this site is completely different. Why isn’t this standardized? 1995 called, they want their web design back. Okay, yeah… CLP Holdings has a property here. Hold on…”

Madison had trouble keeping up with everything Cindy was doing, but soon she was looking at a satellite view of another giant warehouse. “That’s even bigger,” Madison observed.

“I wonder…” Cindy was off to another site, quickly collecting dozens of open tabs and browser windows. “Yeah, look at this, there’s one near Miami. Also ridiculously huge.”

“Why’d you look in Miami?” Madison asked.

“Miami Sound Machine is on the radio,” Cindy said.

Madison hadn’t even noticed, but she laughed when she realized Cindy was right. “Try… I don’t know. Boise, Idaho.”

“Boys, I da ho!” Cindy joked. “What a stupid name. Hang on… yup. Check it out.”

“This is crazy,” Madison said. “It’s like they have one of these warehouses in every county in the country.”

“Three thousand and seven,” Cindy said.

“Three thousand and seven what?” Madison asked.

“Counties in the country,” Cindy replied. “I learned that once. I tend to remember numbers like that.”

“Do those land records show the price?” Madison asked.

“Some do. Sometimes it’s really low, like maybe they bought an empty lot and built the warehouse. But let’s see… twenty million for the one outside Houston.”

“Dollars? Holy shit,” Madison said. “And the stuff inside. I wonder what that’s worth.”

Cindy looked at her. “I mean, I don’t even know how we’d search for that. But let’s say, five million?”

“Sure,” Madison agreed.

“So at twenty-five million each, and if there really are three thousand of these, you’re looking at seventy-five billion dollars. Probably more if we underestimated the cost of the stuff inside.”

“Which we probably did. So like a hundred billion dollars. Where is this money coming from?”

“Could be just one guy. There’s a few who are worth that much,” Cindy said. “I plan to join that club someday.”

“What club?” Madison asked.

“The billionaires club,” Cindy said, spinning her chair to face Madison. Her eyes were wide.

“I have no doubt you will,” Madison said. “Hey, let’s look at another country.”

“Sure, one that speaks English, though,” Cindy replied. “I only know computer languages, not foreign languages.”

“Wellington, New Zealand,” Madison said in a terrible fake New Zealand accent.

“On it,” Cindy replied, in a much better approximation. “Whoot! There it is!”

“This is crazy. So in the meeting I listened to, they mentioned a cell in Houston. What if there are cells like this in every county over the entire globe?”

“Probably take a few billionaires to pay for all of that,” Cindy said.

“Yeah, or more likely it’s just a really big public company, right? Why are you thinking billionaires?” Madison asked.

“Because it’s not a public company,” Cindy said. She opened one of the tabs way on the left side of her screen. “Didn’t you see me look it up earlier?”

“Honestly, no. I couldn’t keep track of everything you were doing,” Madison said with a little pout.

“Yeah, well if they were public, they’d be listed here. There’s no such company. But you can’t have too many investors and be working this kind of money without doing some public filings, so I’m thinking it’s small group of investors.”

“How do you know about that stuff?” Madison asked.

Cindy shrugged. “How don’t you know about that stuff?” Then she laughed. “I’m just messing with you. My mom does corporate law stuff. She explains all sort of weird things at the dinner table.”

Madison stared at the three computer screens in front of her, all littered with satellite images and real estate records. She felt overwhelmed. “This is big,” she said.

Cindy turned in her chair to face Madison. “This is really fucking big,” she agreed.

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